Kenny spoke at the Irish food board’s (Bord Bía’s) conference on food sustainability, entitled ‘Our Food. Our Future. Sustainability: The Bottom Line’. He said the food industry was part of the Irish people, who take great pride in producing some of the world’s best food and drink.
He also said that Bord Bía’s Origin Green programme, which he launched last year, was helping the Irish food and drink industry produce food sustainably.
“The world is changing at a bewildering speed and businesses now realise that what the customers expect of them is radically different than what was expected five, maybe 10 years ago,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bord Bía chairman Michael Carey outlined the success of Irish food and drink exports. He added that the food and drink sector is the country’s most important indigenous industry, which was also playing a “significant role” in the steady recovery of the Irish economy.
“Exports from this sector, last year, achieved €9bn for the first time and continue to grow reaching out to about 175 countries,” Carey explained. He also noted that the industry employed around 150,000 people directly and accounted for about one-sixth of the Irish workforce.
“And as an industry we have a very clear set of targets to direct our growth of exports sustainably over the coming years and Origin Green plays a very important part of that.
“Today is a day that signals changing times. There’s no doubt that whatever your sector sustainability is an integral part.”
Also speaking at the conference was fast food boss JC Gonzalez-Mendez, senior vice-president of global CSR, sustainability and philanthropy at McDonald’s.
According to Gonzalez-Mendez the company would the fourth-largest importer of Irish beef if it was a country. He said it took around 10% of the country’s total beef production.
Also speaking at the conference about Ireland’s food and drink impact on business was Tesco group food director Matt Simister.
The Tesco food boss said the company wanted to increase agricultural exports from Ireland to more than the current 9%. He said the supermarket chain was excited about how the country’s beef industry could play an important part in Tesco’s future.
World Wildlife Fund
Meanwhile, senior vice-president of market transformations at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Jason Clay, summarised the importance schemes like Origin Green, which help to drive sustainability in the food system.
He warned delegates: “In the next 40 years we need to produce as much food as we have in the last 1,000 and the population is going to increase by 9.5bn.”
Clay explained that food businesses needed to start thinking differently about how they produced their goods, pointing out that knee-jerk reactions would not be overly helpful. He said the world’s food was grown on 35% of the Earth’s land, and doubling that to cope with a population-boost to 9.5bn by 2050 may not make sense.
“The biggest way to reduce the amount of new food we produce in the future is to waste less. One out of three calories every day are wasted. If we could reduce this, we would reduce by half the amount we need to produce,” he said.
Find out more about Origin Green and watch this interview with Bord Bía chief executive officer Aidan Cotter.