One of my recent career highlights was making the trip to the US to attend the world’s largest food and nutrition meeting, the annual Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo, or FNCE for short. Aside from the diverse, quality program, range of inspirational speakers, and vast number of networking opportunities, it was the Expo component that had me gaping. Featuring over 400 exhibitors, from software companies to food manufacturers and producer organisations, it was impossible to get around it all. Businesses taking this opportunity to get face-to-face with 10,000 or so dietitians from across the US and beyond, and flaunt their products’ nutrition credentials.
The variety and number of producer organisations were the stand-outs for me. Sophisticated health and nutrition marketing machines, representing almonds, strawberries, cranberries, wild blueberries, walnuts, flaxseed, hemp, dairy, pulses, olive oil, canola, lentils, soybeans, peas, peanuts, pistachios, eggs, seafood, pork … the list goes on. You name it, they were there. All had worked out that there is value in getting in front of the largest gathering of food and nutrition experts – the same people who blog to the public, share their thoughts on social media, have input into the development of national food policies and regulations, and who are sought for media comment.
It was a stark contrast to anything I’d seen from New Zealand producers (Zespri being the notable exception) and I couldn’t help wondering what implications this has for New Zealand’s competitiveness on the global stage? Many of these US producers are our competitors, aren’t they? And let’s not forget the Australians, who are also pretty good at this.
This kind of approach is not new, nor is it rocket science. In 2017, Euromonitor valued the “Naturally Healthy” foods category (that’s foods with intrinsic health and nutrition benefits) at US$250 billion, representing 35% of the entire global health and wellness market. It therefore shouldn’t come as a surprise to see producer organisations flaunting their product’s nutrition credentials. Naturally healthy is what they do.
Why then don’t we see more New Zealand producers promoting and protecting the health and nutrition attributes of the foods we grow? This is low hanging fruit. It’s an easy sell, relatively simple from a regulatory perspective, and it doesn’t have to involve expensive clinical trials. An understanding of a product’s nutrition credentials is a good place to start. There is usually plenty of existing science to draw upon to create useful marketing content, at least to get started. It simply takes knowledge of your product’s nutritional profile, the food and nutrition landscape in the market you sell into, and the nutrition attributes that your customers value.
Come on New Zealand producers, help yourself to the low hanging fruit that’s ready for harvest. Tell the world about the high quality, nutritious food that we grow down here and how it supports the health of consumers all over the world. Health and nutrition is big business and consumers are willing to pay for it.