Food industry expert highlights opportunities

The chief executive of research company IGD has predicted a changing picture for the food industry in the coming years, and outlined a number of opportunities for producers.

Speaking at the NFU conference last week, Joanne Denney-Finch OBE outlined how she believes food consumption and purchasing will develop over the next five years. She believes the supermarkets’ share will decrease, the discounters will keep growing, and the demand for quality will increase. She said supermarkets will innovate more and develop a cafe feel, while online sales and technology will play a larger role for consumers. These developments open up opportunities for producers, which they should grasp, she added.

Denney-Finch believes the demand for healthy, natural, quality and wholesome products can be exploited, since producers can shout about the integrity of the food which comes straight from their farms.

She suggested that by raising standards of transparency and traceability, food producers can further build trust with their consumers for the benefit of their businesses. IGD research shows that nearly two-thirds of shoppers say that British farms tend to produce higher quality food, and nearly as many people feel hygiene and animal welfare standards are higher. Denney-Finch said the public is therefore receptive, and the industry can take advantage of this by developing the Red Tractor brand and open farm days, and showcasing methods and products online and through social media.

She added: “Farm shops and markets are well positioned for growth given that people are shopping around more. Online farmers’ markets are all the rage in the US, and taking off here too.

“There’s scope to sell online in other countries. There’s never been a better time to set your sights on exporting beyond the boundaries of Europe. And don’t just rely on conventional wisdom. When the herd is heading one way, look for an opening in the opposite direction.”

Denney-Finch told delegates that there is also an opportunity to progress by bringing a personal touch to retailers’ offerings. Farmers should go into stores to meet consumers, try and set up independent shops within supermarkets, and try to display their passion and knowledge wherever possible.

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