Future for food?
Current challenges facing food marketers like wrestling with a boa constrictor.
An interesting exercise to determine the challenges facing Irish food and drink companies from the “gate to the plate” was undertaken by the Marketing Society. Researchers Cathy Winston, David Fanning and David Cullen interviewed 15 marketing directors, eight senior communicators and conducted desk research for an international perspective.
Cathy Winston provided a report analysis. Food production in Ireland is not what it used to be. As a small, open economy we need exports. We must attract high-level companies looking for an educated workforce. Where the theory fails is in food where low cost production has seen demand move eastwards to meet retailer demands.
Winston said the trend makes sense for clothing, white and brown goods, computers and mobile phones, generating huge savings to consumers. Ireland is in the most affluent stage in its history. Are we prepared to see food production being driven back to its lowest common denominator, just to meet retailer demands?
Is cheaper, tasteless, mass-produced food what consumers want so they can save a few bob over the week? Who owns the companies in the supply chain? As part of the global dynamic, ownership is influenced by stakeholders abroad.
Performance indicators must be delivered to an overseas HQ and local idiosyncrasies aren’t part of the big picture. With everyone in the supply chain focused outwards, who’s looking at the long-term impact on the country of a dwindling food production industry?
The Ireland of today is more motivated and energised by high ticket items like cars, holidays and holiday homes. Eddie Hobbs promoting smart choices by making savings in grocery shopping plays right into the retailer strategy of driving manufacturers to deliver consumers the lowest price. But at what cost?
‘We must engage a busy and distracted consumer who will take the time and pay the extra cent for Irish products and brands’
With different agendas for retailers and manufacturers, who wins? The current Wal-mart model delivers more for one or two retailers at a faster rate. In the world of profits and increased share prices, this is great news for the stakeholders and cranking things up.
Driving down prices by sourcing products from low-cost economies, systemising business processes to deal with the vast number of products on the shelf and removing all human initiatives is a strategy paying off hugely for these retailers.
It’s the opposite business model to the one that manufacturers need to meet their sales, re-ordering, NPD and product launch aims. The investment undertaken to come into line with these changes has been sizable, without any guarantee of continued listings.
Where does this all end for producers of Irish food and Irish brands? If Irish consumers don’t notice Irish products and brands slipping off the shelves because they are too busy and the alternative seems fine, what happens back up the supply chain?
Ireland Inc is no longer competitive. IBEC has said that production will be driven out of Ireland as we become increasingly uncompetitive. With the food we grow and rear among the best there is in quality and taste, we have to develop markets globally.
We must engage a busy and distracted consumer in Ireland who will take the time and pay the extra cent for Irish products and brands. Otherwise, we’re in danger of being like the frog coming to the boil so slowly that it dies rather than jumps out.
If, by 2020, we haven’t a strategy to tackle the problem, our shopping baskets could be devoid of Irish brands and products. The gatekeeper has changed and what is put into the weekly shopping basket has become less important than it was in the past.
The time needed to study shelves, pick up new products and try new variants does not seem to be there for most. Why fuss over peas when the real decision is about Prada?
For more on the Wresting with the Boa Constrictor report, see the September issue of Marketing.
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