MD's corner

By Anna Campbell

I attended the National Institute of Directors conference last month and heard the founder and CEO of Honest Tea, Seth Goldman, speak about his US tea company which has been bought by Coca Cola.

During his presentation, he spoke of his investment into a company Beyond Meat. They are responsible for “The Beyond Burger” and other plant–based products aiming to fight it out in the meat section of the supermarkets – if they’re stuck in the vegetarian section they reach less than 5% of buyers.

Plant–based products masquerading as meat is nothing new. I remember teasing a vegetarian friend about her weekly “nut and lentil roasts”,

I would tell her that if I brought a cooked lamb leg to sit alongside her sad looking nut–roast, the aroma of lamb would lead her entire flat to banish their vegetarian principles and devour my offering in seconds.

Vegetarianism has been around for centuries, yet the war on meat feels like it is only beginning. Consumer concerns around the role of ruminants in climate change are growing and we may also face political trade ramifications for high–carbon products.

What will this mean for New Zealand exporters? In Seth Goodman’s address, he spoke of two major food trends being the “un–doing and re–doing of food”.

Un–doing is taking food back to basics – think artisan, farmers’ markets, premium value – while re–doing is the re–invention of products – think 3D printed meat and the Impossible Burger.

Where should NZ food products sit? In my view, we should be investing in both arenas, while being very clear on a product–by–product basis, which arena we are targeting.

Meat and Livestock Australia are investing in the development of 3D–printed meat–based products, using meat offal as a base, at the same time as they are investing in technologies to assure consumers of the provenance of premium traditional red meat products.

NZ livestock farmers should be ensuring they partner with processors who are doing everything they can to sell our meat and milk products as artisan and high–end, while also investing themselves in understanding at a farm level, the types of products they could be growing for the future that will integrate with meat and milk.

Cropping, horticulture, honey, and forestry integrated with meat and milk production – sounds like farming as it used to be – our biodiverse past will be part of our premium future.