Lucy Griffiths take on how Manawatū is poised to reap the rewards of 2020 consumer changes

As a food marketing consultant and exporter, I have enjoyed spending theLucy Griffiths new year reading and contemplating food trends and how this will affect our local farmers and food producers.

One of the major trends we saw in 2019 in New Zealand’s supermarkets was people’s increasing desire for plant-based food. Countdown NZ (180 stores nationwide) reported late last year that “sales of dairy-free milk have risen 14 percent in the past six months, while the number of sales of dairy-free cheese had grown by more than 300 percent.” The supermarket said, “in the last year, demand for plant-based vegan and vegetarian meal solutions had increased 36 percent.” 1

In the UK we are seeing similar trends as shown by Sainsbury’s 2019 report about the future of food. They are expecting that a quarter of the UK will be vegetarian in 5 years’ time, stating it is “Driven by unprecedented awareness of animal welfare, health concerns and ‘eco-anxiety”.

Sainsbury’s alone has already seen a 65 percent increase in sales of plant-based products year-on-year, as customers increasingly consider a vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian lifestyle.

Although these trends may pose challenges for many of our primary industry businesses, the Manawatū is well poised to capture the benefits of these consumer changes and lead the change. We have some of the world’s most innovative food scientists, plant researchers, processing pilot plants and some of the country’s most fertile soils here, and our science and research sector employ more than 3,900 people.

A couple of unique superfood companies from the region that I am watching with interest are Kiwi Quinoa and Tahi NZ Spirulina.

Kiwi Quinoa won the Food Safety Primary Sector Products Award in the Massey New Zealand Food Awards and harvested 70T of quinoa last year which is being sold nationally through New World stores. Their first ever harvest was the first commercially ready quinoa crop harvested in New Zealand.

Kiwi quinoa credit
Kiwi Quinoa

Tahi Spirulina is another local premium product that is healthy and tasty! It provides a vegan source of protein, all key essential amino acids, vitamin B, antioxidants and minerals, and can easily be added to smoothies, soups and salads. Farmed at Himatangi, it is New Zealand’s first spirulina farm and is a recent recipient of funding from Sustainable Food and Fibres Futures to look at the potential of scaled production.

Tahi Spirulina
Tahi Spirulina

Having attended the launch of the Primary Sector Council ‘Fit for a Better World’ vision, which encourages ‘farmers, growers, fishers, makers and crafters’ to shape the future, I believe that our region and our producers are well positioned to ensure we are indeed producing and supporting the production of food that truly is ‘fit for a better world’.

Manawatū produces a basket of nutritious foods from organic yoghurt, boutique cheese and asparagus to large scale A2 milk, meat and potato production. Our farmers, like those across the country are tenacious, adaptive and innovative, and what separates us as a food region globally is our world-leading scientists and researchers, and it is with great excitement that I see FoodHQ aligning us as one of the world’s leading agrifood hubs.

As the home of New Zealand AgriFood Week 2020, Manawatū will once again bring this conversation and others around our food production to life. I am looking forward to watching this conversation develop over the Week and seeing what ideas and actionable outcomes are generated because of it.

Lucy Griffiths is an expert food marketing consultant and is Director of Innov8 Aoteaora Ltd which works with food and beverage companies to market, sell and export their products. Lucy is also a director of Wools of New Zealand, a Nuffield Scholar and a member of the CEDA Board. Lucy was recently appointed by to the Independent Advisory Panel for Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures and has previously provided the New Zealand AgriFood Week with her insights and expertise as both the Chair and Participant at ASB Perspective 2025. Hear from other inspirational women like Lucy at this year’s ASB Perspective 2025 , Wednesday 18 March 2020.

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