Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Future for agriculture in focus at Outlook 2015

Opportunities and challenges facing the meat and dairy sectors came under the spotlight at this year’s Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Outlook Conference.

More than 170 delegates attended the event in Westminster on February 11 – hosted by AHDB’s livestock sectors (EBLEX, BPEX and DairyCo) and AHDB Market Intelligence − where guest speakers gave insightful presentations on consumer trends, emerging markets and sector-specific outlooks.

New AHDB chief executive Jane King opened the event by highlighting the enormous opportunities for UK agriculture. She took the opportunity to outline her vision for AHDB, stressing that it should become the go-to organisation to equip farmers with the right tools to grow and addressing competitiveness in the global market.

Jane King at Outlook 2015

Outlook also provides the ideal annual platform to present the industry with different perspectives on developments in the meat and dairy sectors and this year’s event didn't disappoint. Future Foundation’s Richard Nicholls was the first speaker at the main session, highlighting consumer trends and suggesting the next few years are likely to be filled with thrifty shoppers. His presentation also made it clear that emerging markets are leading the way in consumer spending opportunities, with India and China at the head of the pack.

Richard’s thought-provoking presentation was followed by the equally engaging Nick Miles from the Institute of Grocery Development (IGD), who focused on opportunities in emerging markets. And if ever the phrase ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ was epitomised, it was in Nick’s illustration of the changing horizon of Shanghai since 1987, drawing a collective gasp from the auditorium at the sheer scale of change.

Delegates heard how meat and dairy is helping retailers to differentiate their offer and bring consumers to modern channels. Nick also outlined the opportunities presented by Asia’s growing middle class, demanding more and better products and paying a premium for it. As he said, meat and dairy can play a strong role as provenance and welfare are given increasing prominence in Asian markets.

Nick Miles from the IGD

The success of a good conference can often be judged by question and answers from the floor and the session prompted a lively and full debate, as did the sector-specific cattle and sheep breakout session which followed it.

After a whistle-stop overview of the beef and sheep meat markets from AHDB’s Debbie Butcher and Stuart Ashworth from QMS, EBLEX chairman John Cross summed up, suggesting areas with a growing middle-class offer the biggest opportunity to our industry. Importantly, building on Jane’s earlier comments about the role of AHDB, John urged delegates to be demanding and ensure they keep attending key events like Outlook 2015, particularly given AHDB's increasingly important role in providing vital industry information.

You can view videos and download presentations from Outlook 2015 and view the conference in tweets here.