Apr 22nd 2014

CIM Food and agriculture group event

The Future of Food, Drink and Agriculture

Question Time at the CIM

The food and agricultural industries face an ever changing landscape. There are big challenges ahead that show no sign of abating, which made the latest meeting of the Chartered Institute of Marketing Food, Drink and Agricultural Group a lively event. The attendees benefited from informed opinions and advice from industry experts across a range of fields; set against the spectacular back drop of the London skyline in the penthouse room at New Zealand House.

With an audience of around 70 CIM members and guests this Question Time – type discussion started with the controversial subject of GM food. There was general agreement that consumers were gradually beginning to come round to the idea. Andy Thompson, European Director of Genus plc pointed out that this may in some way be due to consumers now having a better understanding and realising that it could be the only viable way to tackle world hunger. Andy continued to say that the one guarantee is that whilst the West spends time debating the topic “China and Asia will snap it up” and go on to lead the way in this field.

The discussion then moved on to debate ‘provenance or price’. Clive Black, Senior Analyst at Shore Capital pointed out that despite the general assumption that price is winning the war, fuelled by the success of the discounters, the actual facts are that “92% of transactions don’t take place at Aldi and Lidl”. So the race is not as clear cut as it may seem. He continued to say that discounters are not a new phenomenon and that they too have provenance high on their agendas. Concluding he said that the major factor driving change in the retail sector was the complacency of the major supermarkets. Foodmanufacture.co.uk looks into this further in the following article http://www.foodmanufacture.co.uk/Business-News/Retail-turmoil-due-to-complacency-not-discounters.

One issue that could not be ignored was the on-going debate on sugar. Many of the delegates were well aware of the ever present danger of a crisis developing within the food, drink or agricultural industries and the media furore that can result. The panel was asked about best practice when your company’s reputation is threatened; Keith Beech, crisis communications expert and a Director at Core Management advised that whilst crises were sometimes unpreventable being well prepared was the best form of defence. He commented that “planning, speed and honesty” were the holy grail in crisis situations. Having a tried and tested strategy in place, he said, was integral to a company’s reputation surviving such an onslaught.

There was debate amongst the panel and the audience as to whether the food industry should speak up more boldly during the on-going media coverage of sugar in foods. All agreed that the topic was likely to stay close to the top of the news agenda for the rest of the year.

The evening proved to be a great success with panellists and delegates’ agreeing that despite big challenges, 2014 is looking to be a good year for the sectors.

Written by Lulu Emersic Marketing Manager at the Nexus Communications Group:

Contact Lulu: lulu.emersic@nexuspr.com