Around 150 farmers and other industry representatives came together last week for the first NFU and AHDB Northern Beef & Sheep Conference for some years.
The event, which took place at Scotch Corner, in North Yorkshire, looked at how the industry can meet global market challenges and stay competitive, at a time of falling farmgate prices and significant market pressures. Given the topical nature of the subject matter and with a high-profile line-up of speakers, including Dave Harrison from Beef and Lamb New Zealand, Ed Garner from Kantar Worldpanel and Jonathan Birnie from Dunbia, as well as representatives from the NFU and AHDB, it’s no surprise that it was standing room only in the conference hall.
For AHDB Beef & Lamb Sector Strategy Director Laura Ryan, who took up her role in early November, it was a key opportunity to address an audience of levy payers and set out her priorities for the year ahead. Laura, together with NFU Deputy President Minette Batters, spoke during the opening session of the conference.
Unsurprisingly, given the current pressures on the farmgate price, encouraging sales of beef and lamb dominated this session. Following comments from Minette regarding the commoditisation of home-produced beef and lamb, Laura went on to give an overview of the activity the AHDB marketing team is doing to add value to beef and lamb products.
Looking at marketing to the trade, Laura spoke about the work currently being undertaken to improve product consistency and outlined some new product development initiatives, such as the quick-cook thin cut steak range, which is ideal for sandwiches, and the mini roast concept, designed to encourage consumers to consider having a roast dinner as a midweek treat.
Mini roasts were the focus of AHDB Beef & Lamb’s £1 million TV advertising campaign that aired last November, supported by extensive social media, digital and press advertising. However, as Laura pointed out, this is just one element of our consumer marketing activity, which also includes the three-year campaign to promote lamb consumption across a number of EU member states and the Lambsoc youth marketing programme, targeting 18 to 25-year-old university students, plus valuable work with bloggers and other media influencers.
Overseas promotion is an equally important element of the AHDB Beef & Lamb marketing strategy and here Laura gave an overview of the number of markets now available for UK livestock exports (currently 98 for beef and 105 for lamb) and the development work being done to maintain existing markets and open new ones. This includes 727 days of in-store animations on the French market, something which wouldn't usually be seen in the UK, demonstrating how important it is to take a tailored approach to each individual market.
A 20-minute presentation can only ever give a snapshot of the work being done by an organisation with as broad a remit as AHDB Beef & Lamb, but Laura’s talk hopefully gave those levy payers in the audience a flavour of the activity their levy is funding, much of which they would not usually see.
As Laura said in her closing remarks, she’s keen to speak to as many levy payers as possible about the work of AHDB and what our priorities should be. If you weren’t able to make the conference the presentations are now online, or there will no doubt be further opportunities to speak to Laura and the rest of the AHDB team at events over the coming months.