#Veganuary VS #Februdairy, OFC 2018 and much more!

A hashtag face off is looming as we come to the end of January and the beginning of February. Vegans and Dairy Farmers, have picked up their arms, designating hashtags to spread awareness and engagement for their respective causes, the ever popular #Veganuary and the new entrance, #Februdairy.

Before I explore the significance of these hashtags for us within the food industry and consumers, I must reiterate Agrantec’s stance of being neutral to both. We understand that today food choices can be based on our personal beliefs, ethical beliefs or at times, traditional habits. In an era of information and opinions, we want to play our part in facilitating a healthy dialogue between businesses and consumers.     

Hence, as an organisation, we are committed to best food practices and complete traceability in food processes, manufacturing and production. We believe the two camps and their supporters must come together to ensure we create a sustainable, collaborative and effective solution for the future.

Britain has a long history for its love of meat and animal food products. Agriculture in its many forms has been the backbone of our economy and culture. However, change is coming. Agricultural practices are evolving, millennials are dictating the food supply and demand; and a general mistrust within the food supply chain in growing. Building on these themes, this year’s Oxford Farming Conference, held from 03-05th January in Oxford, seemed to understand and embrace the trends the agricultural world is facing.

I was only able to attend the Friday session due to unprecedented demand, however, my one day there provided me with food for thought and an understanding that we at Agrantec are on the right path as providers of innovative technology to our clients and introducing active labelling to consumers.

My first session was by the vivacious Eve Turow Paul. A food writer from New York, attempting to help the audience understand Food Culture. She highlighted the need for the food industry to work together to embrace change, whether it be consumption or food values. Her bold question at the beginning of her talk, “what frustrates you about millennials?” attempted to unravel the common needs and motivators of that generation and how as farmers, the audience can adapt to embrace the new trends.

According to Eve, millennials are motivated by 4 main themes: Real. Transparent. Green. Unique. They want to clearly know that their food is real. They want to know what it is, where it was made and how it came to them. Transparency has never been more important in Agriculture than today. They are not only concerned regarding the quality of food but also its impact on the environment. And lastly, they want something that is different.

The recent demand for camel milk at Asda brings home the last point in my mind. The rise of veganism, success of #Veganuary and the active need to create a traceable food supply chain is a testament to her other three points. As farmer’s grapple with the new demands of their target audience and a desperate need to rebrand their marketing to appeal and engage, another challenge is looming.

The topic of Brexit and the impact it will have on agriculture and trade is gaining momentum. Steve Murrells, Co-op Group CEO, discussed the need to embrace change in the age of Brexit. A point he made regarding Co-op’s history and value really resonated with me. I believe it not only supports Eve’s points that I have discussed above but also demonstrated the real actions Co-op has taken to showcase its commitment to the community and the consumer.  He mentioned how Co-op has rebranded while actively “improving quality and distinctiveness of the brand by caring about the supply chain, the ethics that sit behind our buying decisions and the provenance of the ingredients we use.”

The need of the hour is to understand and engage the new consumer, provide as much information through traceability and provenance to dispel myths and create an open and engaged relationship between the consumer; and the food producers and manufacturers. #Februdairy can play a crucial role in creating this platform and providing information to vegans and other interested parties on the trade and its needs. The more correct the information that is made available, the less the chance of unhealthy debates.

At Agrantec, we have long been committed to provenance and traceability. This is demonstrable in our platform, FollowthisFood which allows consumers and food manufacturers to engage, ask questions, share information and work together.

When it comes to traceability, the areas of enquiry and the need to demystify the supply chain is urgent. Whether it be the persistent fear of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) within our food choices or practices associated with livestock rearing, consumers are demanding answers. As Mark Lynas, famously infamous for his almost viral 2013 talk on GMO states, “the agriculture community must embrace full traceability….you need labelling and full traceability throughout the supply chain and the production chain even if this costs slightly more.”

I believe there is space for each of us to exist and exercise our rights as an informed consumer and business. Ethical objection to practices are important, they ensure we identify problems and create solutions. However, it is also important to recognise the significance of industries. For example, if a farmer with a low-yield land stops rearing livestock and cannot grow crops, we find ourselves with a problem with significant ramifications. Not only does the farmer lose his income and profession, the land goes to waste and there is an impact on livestock availability within the industry. The demand and supply of meat will always be there, however, is it not better to ensure we are creating an environment where it is supplied using best practices. Stopping farmers and businesses may result in country’s importing meat from regions where we have no knowledge of their supply chain. With Brexit looming, food packing scandal’s exposed, and the industry creating diverse products – is it not better to work together?    

In the end, I would encourage my fellow colleagues within the food industry and friends, who like me are consumers, to talk, engage, ask questions and most importantly, listen. Social media is a powerful platform to facilitate this discussion, however, as Spiderman’s uncle once said, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Adrian Talbot, Business Development Director

Adrian Talbot holds extensive software sales and leadership experience at Agrantec. His ability to customise and seek the best fit for businesses ensures customers receive the perfect solution to their operational problems. With an eye for opportunity, Adrian directs sales strategy and drives revenue for the company.

Get in touch with Adrian Talbot for a free consultation: https://agrantec.com/contact-us/