27 October 2023

Held in the Douglas Boyd Learning Centre, students and staff were treated to presentations from three distinguished keynote speakers – Caroline Wallace, the Head of Commercial and Strategy for the Meat, Deli and Seafood Business Unit at Coles, Sophie Angus, the Holbrook NSW Supply Chain Manager at LAMBPRO, and Professor David Hughes, an Emeritus Professor of Food Marketing at Imperial College London.

David Cornish, Director of the Centre for Professional Development, organised the forum.

“It says a lot about Marcus Oldham’s reputation in the industry that we attract these speakers. They believe strongly in the type of students we are producing at the College and are very keen to be a part of the provision of real-life experience that can add to the educational experience at Marcus. It allows our students to bring these learnings into the classroom. The presenters are also keen to demonstrate to our students their own companies and the potential for job opportunities within them,” said David.

Toby Nixon FM1 found the forum to be of great value.

“Forums such as this are vital for future thinking. Without being exposed to market and global issues, how will young farmers prepare and act on things that will end up affecting them? The more opportunities we get to be a part of the discussion means we are more informed of potential possibilities, to move away from old practices and grow into bigger, better, more efficient systems, ultimately improving the end product,” said Toby.

The speakers discussed the future of food, providing the producers’ perspective, insights into the development and positioning of the product, and the supply chain via the retailer, from both a domestic and global perspective.

Caroline Wallace promoted a great discussion on general consumer trends, describing how Coles is innovating to keep up with these trends.

“As retailers the landscape evolves and changes so much, it is our role to ensure we can be agile, we can pivot to customer needs and requirements. The online platform that came about during the pandemic has stayed. Consumers want all communication with them personalised to their individual needs. We need to re-think and do better with our in-store offerings, so we are delivering for customers’ needs. Customer loyalty has gone, they shop around to stay within their budgets.”

Looking ahead, Caroline sees a change in focus.

“From a retailers’ perspective, we need to be more mindful of technology. More and more businesses are going to become reliant on it to enable them to serve their customers more efficiently and effectively. We need to start looking at that now, so we are fit for the future. The other thing we need to be mindful of is climate change and the impact that has, particularly for the producers in our country, and how we manage that in the future to best protect our supply chain.”

LAMBPRO is currently recognised as one of the largest suppliers of prime lamb genetics in Australia with genetics being supplied to more than 350 farming operations who, in turn, produce more than one million lambs collectively. Lamb produced by LAMBPRO clients can be found internationally, marketed under Kinross Station and Willow Bend.

Sophie Angus offered an excellent discussion on how a producer should be investing in order to position their product away from the commodity space.

“We need to be thinking about what the consumer wants and playing in the premium space, to do so we need to be focusing on animal welfare, the environment, and carbon. We are already starting to do so but it takes time,” said Sophie.

Professor David Hughes’ insightful discussion of the global trend in food retailing shone a light on the likely implications for the Australian producer.

“One of the profound impacts of the last four difficult years is it’s made everyone ask, ‘Do we have enough food?’ People all around the world are concerned with climate change. You either go green or you will go bust by the end of this decade, so just get on with it, and don’t be grizzling about who is going to pay for it. Carbon neutral is now being seen as ‘green washing’. The EU is banning carbon neutral claims by 2026. We have to do it a different way, you have to say, ‘I’m reducing the carbon impact of this product by 20% and here’s the science to prove that’.”

According to David, these changes are advantageous to primary producers.

“Consumers trust farmers more than any people in the supply chain. The takeout for me from that is that people want a transparent supply chain, farmers have a bigger place and more power in the supply chain because consumers are genuinely interested in who produced their food. In 10 years, we will be greener,” said David.

Toby Nixon found the discussion of food security and carbon emissions of most interest.

“It opened my mind to how we need to be consumer minded when we market and sell our products. Consumers are looking for a clean, sustainable product without being pushed into a ‘greenwashed’ market and there is going to be a premium in the future for farmers who can produce the best produce with the lowest emissions,” Toby said.

The insights shared by the speakers left a profound impact on both students and staff, proving the forum to be a great way to share real-life, current ideas and information. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our speakers for generously sharing their time and expertise.

Thanks too to David Cornish for organising the event and we look forward to next year’s Forum.