On-demand food and drink

31.10.13 – On-demand food and drink

What is “on-demand food and drink?” Definitions included that it is making sure people have what they want, when they want and how they want; that it is the right product, place, price and format; or available without question or delay. Yet what implications does this have on supply factors and quality? Although provenance is ‘nice to have’, consumers are actually driven by price rather than traceability and although value is important our 9-5, 24/7 society wants ingredients at low cost.

Growth can be expected in ‘healthy’ fast food, farms & processors that can show sustainability credentials & direct sales, but also in innovation and crowd engagement. Looking wider, there are huge opportunities within the domestic market, but also with an export market on our doorstep this should give both producers and retailers the confidence to invest, innovate & improve supply.

In this regard, communication is vital along the chain – seeing other businesses as potential collaboration partners opens up a whole new world of possibility but unless there’s effective communication none of the other elements of the chain would work.

The discussion held on Thursday 31st October 2013 was a discussion about the on-demand food and drink markets. It generated a total of 671 tweets on the topic from 89 participants. These included farmers, agri-food businesses, rural advisors, land agents, lawyers, journalists, academics and NFU officeholders, as well as members of the general public.

What do you understand by the term “on-demand food and drink”?

  • Harper Adams work shows wide understanding: ‘Food at your fingertips’ or ‘functional convenience’
  • Maybe a meal/snack that can be consumed immediately?
  • ‘Right product, place, price and format’ or ‘making sure people have what they want, when they want and how they want’
  • Great-tasting food made with responsibly-sourced, quality ingredients
  • Food/drink produced fit for immediate consumption
  • Food and drink supply without the traditional limitations of geography and seasonality
  • The ability of people to just go into a supermarket and pick up food. with no problems or great expense
  • “On demand” means available without question or delay. Supply must compromise itself in order to deliver.
  • Food that needs to be purchased and consumed quickly and conveniently – whether that be hot/cold, healthy or calorific!
  • An expectation that we will be able to get whatever food we want whenever we want it
  • “On demand” suggests takeaway/convenience/snack /easy access food..I don’t always think of it being healthy or nutritious!
  • The expectation that we can buy any food, from anywhere, at any time w/ little thought for its production

Does this ‘on the go’ food have to mean lack of provenance and distance from farmers then if ppl want convenience?

  • Convenience and provenance are not mutually exclusive at all! We can have smart AND fast
  • Not necessarily although consumers may have other priorities that they want to realise above provenance
  • Obviously easier to be closer to some consumers than others. “Local” milk carries a premium as consumers feel its fresher
  • Lea Valley Growers supply mini snack Cucumbers, Peppers & Tomatoes for lunch boxes and snackers – grown 12 miles from London
  • I think provenance is ‘nice to have’ but when it comes down to it is it really the first thing consumers consider?
  • If fruit & veg is flown round the world for our convenience, we have to accept the consequences of food miles
  • You can’t get too hung up on food miles. No veg or fruit grown around here so we always buy food from distance.

Traceability key for consumers from farm to fork. Should industry-catering/ smarkets/ retailers etc be doing more? What & how?

  • Research shows that 4 out of 5 people feel it’s important that ingredients are traceable
  • Is it an important consideration when purchasing or do consumers just expect it to have been taken care of?
  • Absolutely positively. All the info is there and available in meat supply chains. Is just a matter of following through chain
  • To say that traceability is key is rather naive, yes for some, for majority lower price consumers it doesn’t, price is king
  • British sells certain produce, supermarkets probably best placed to market provenance if they see a benefit to sales
  • As much as they like to think they care the maj of on demand consumers will be price orientated first
  • Our customers tell us they want value and food made with values
  • Price is important, but if you source smart there’s a great deal more locally at great prices than one might think
  • Certainly for most price is key but people will pay premium for provenance and quality (and welfare)!
  • Still too many loopholes in labelling when it comes to ingredients from all over then just put together here etc
  • Industry, suppliers etc have made enormous strides in this. And consumers are responding. Credit where it’s due.

What are the long term pros and cons about ‘on the go’ food? Does it reduce the value put on food?

  • We’re not a 9-5 society anymore. Our customers want good food made with quality ingredients fast 24/7
  • If you give consumers what they want they’ll buy your products. If you don’t they won’t
  • Great opportunity for growers to produce healthy option convenient snack crops for on demand consumption
  • Food on the go ok when it really essential but too many eat on the go all of the time.
  • Very easy to take food for granted when the shop shelves are always brimming full. Food waste easily drops off the radar
  • End of a long day. I want English veg for dinner. Express outlet at Tube has Dutch. I buy Dutch. Who does not? Needs must.
  • On the go food leads to under appreciation of good products and meals become less valued

What is the most important part of the supply chain – logistics, production, sales, marketing, relationships, communication? Or perhaps none of the above – R&D, innovation perhaps?

  • Supply chain is more a ‘web’ than ‘chain’ – all equally important. That said, communication and collaboration => better
  • Relationship Should be the most important part …
  • Listening to what the market needs and adapting accordingly
  • Channels play a role. Foodservice (as a whole) more about price, retail more about conv, but mix varies according to category
  • All of them, having the right staff in place for each is a major factor
  • All of the above are essential. Transparency above all else!
  • Surely they all matter equally if they’re to deliver the right product? Plus “trust” & “integrity” – precious ingredients
  • Unless there’s effective communication none of the other elements would work
  • Communication, communication, communication!! Consumers want/need to know what’s going on with their food
  • It is impossible to isolate a single most important link, but communication makes the links into a functioning chain

How could food industry work better with farmers? What are long-term opportunities to work together or be more innovative?

  • Producers we work with who sell direct find route to market challenging. Time/£ spent on admin/marketing is v expensive
  • Accommodate the issues faced, recognise we’re all better off with partnership
  • Role of co-op’s overlooked in UK. Farmers can take a stake in business, move away from being “price takers” & start to add value
  • Some parts of industry value relationships some solely price driven, no surprise that some end up with lack of supply
  • Seeing other businesses as potential collaboration partners opens up a whole new world of possibility
  • Producer groups (McDonalds/Tesco/JS et al) growth helpful – raises standards, gives security for farmer & consumers “get” them.
  • Long term, sustainable supply chain agreements with retailer gives farmer confidence to invest, innovate & improve supply

Any tips or thoughts on how farmers/growers can best market their produce to food processors/outlets/consumers?

  • Make produce as easy & convenient to consume.ie. sweet fire beet root, mini cucumbers, mini sweet bite peppers, chicken bites
  • Huge opportunities out there. Massive domestic market, export market on our doorstep…
  • Customers are shifting to box schemes (10% annual growth) and organic (25% annual global growth)
  • You have to admire the Irish Food Harvest 2020 programme. Government, processors, traders etc all looking to post Quota world
  • Those consumers who are interested in where food comes from really love a producers story on labels, in person, in store
  • Sometimes food ind focus is too much UK retailer v supplier issues & not enough on looking outward to global markets
  • I’ve moved away from the online shopping. Sick of being sent items which are out of date on the del day or soon after.

What are the growth opportunities for food & drink in the UK? Threats?

  • With an increasingly elderly population health and wellbeing will be a key driver – worth £411bn globally
  • Appealing to smaller households, smaller pack or product size, less waste?
  • Given dairy commodity boom key that farmers have access to drying assets & can maximise returns from whey, SMP, WMP etc
  • UK is less than 30% self sufficient in most salad produce so growth opportunities are huge especially on demand snack produce
  • Heritage varieties, accountability, sustainability metrics, resilience, 3BL accounting
  • There’s opportunity for personalised food. Having on demand food, the way YOU want it!
  • I see growth in so called ‘healthy’ fast food, farms & processors that can show sustainability credentials & direct sales
  • To accelerate growth in the UK food industry we need to focus exports, innovation and skills
  • Exchange rates also favourable (generally) for exporting dairy and other commodities
  • UKTI are excellent at supporting UK producers with skills and connections for export
  • Pig industry is doing well: exporting 5th quarter to China. There is also demand from Oz for high welfare British product

How can consumers be better engaged with product innovation and development?

  • Many producers tell us they value social med for connection with customers/low cost marketing but not for everyone, takes time
  • Innovation should be completely focused on what the consumer wants/needs
  • Crowd engagement – encourage consumer / community collaboration when developing new products
  • UK stds/regs just highlighted as a reason for demand for our products. Very important selling point for UK food and drink plc
  • CiM conference identified main areas of weakness in consumer engagement being in marketing, use of social media and NPD
  • Consumer demands ultimately drive product innovation – they just need to find the right channel or voice
  • Consumers need educating in order 2 want 2 engage. Tv is doing this well with the success of progs like Countryfile & Harvest

Independent farming vs integrated/lengthy supply chains – which way should farmers go? Does it matter? Implications of both?

  • Tech now allows us to be independent AND connected 🙂 Network efficiencies displacing scale efficiencies
  • Demand fluctuates so not everyone can be in or operate a fully integrated supply chain
  • Both need each other in order to be successful
  • Farmers should look to whichever supply chain best suits the product e.g. sell direct, co-op, consolidator, vertical integration
  • The horsemeat scandal showed that short, simple, transparent supply chains work best
  • I believe many smaller farms & food biz’s bring many cascading benefits to society/enviro but they need different support
  • Integrated supply chains don’t have to be lengthy. Infact, they can be the shortest and most transparent of all
  • Broadly speaking the shorter supply chain = better control & communication & trust. Long chains prone to the weakest links

How could contracts & relationships be improved? Any good/bad practice examples you can all share with us – horsemeat aside!

  • We find that long-term relationships give confidence and certainty to invest, to grow and improve standards
  • Dedicated dairy producer groups v beneficial all round & good e.g. of relationships/contracts for processors & retailer pools.
  • The farming, food and drink sector is responsible for 3.5 million jobs and 7% of the UK’s overall economy says Defra
  • Fair, balanced and transparent agreements with recognition to market volatility

How much thought did you put into what you have eaten today i.e. where’s it from? How much of it was local AND seasonal?

  • Breakfast from Sainsburys bakery baskets today.. 🙁
  • I had 10 minutes for lunch so quickly narrowed my options to either Greggs or Tesco on The Strand
  • Today I was looking for bacon in Asda… They didn’t have a single rasher of British bacon. It’s all danepak
  • Quarter pounder with cheese made with 100% British and Irish beef
  • Bought some locally sourced Devon sausages & veg yesterday whilst on half term duties. Sadly, don’t get the chance all the time
  • I had a McDonald’s breakfast this morning. Freedom food pork convenience and value
  • Not sure how local or seasonal Waitrose sushi is?
  • Ratatouille, mostly out of neighbours garden!
  • All local, weekly procurement so eat depending on what’s left! Mostly Somerset produced. Now to finish with some of my cider!

Simon Haley, Reading Agricultural Consultants, and Alan Spedding, 11 November 2013

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