The NZ Food & Grocery Council is always on the lookout for ways to create opportunities for member companies and the wider food sector, either in our domestic market or in an export market. One way we do this is by helping them make connections with supermarket buyers.

We recently had a great opportunity to do this by way of an initiative designed to showcase products that are market ready, and the result proves the industry is thriving with innovation.

The initiative was entitled F&B Market Ready, and was launched by Supermarket News with the support of NZ Trade & Enterprise and the Food and Grocery Council.

It’s a magazine (and accompanying website) that tells the stories of New Zealand suppliers who’re looking at getting a serious foothold in the New Zealand and Australian markets. It’s aimed at category buyers in both countries, and further afield, and showcases food and beverage products that are ready to expand and export, are interested in private label, and ready to explore different ways to market.

The F&B Market Ready report asked 80-plus companies questions to see if their brand was market-ready: What is the brand story? What is the current product range and variants, and what makes these products stand out in the market? What is innovative or unique about the product? Who is your consumer and what benefit does the product bring them? What consumer trend does the product support?

The answer to whether the brands were market ready was a resounding ‘yes’. The continuing search for success in export markets means being innovative, not just in product formulation and design but also in how the products are marketed, and the report reveals some fascinating insights behind some of our growing product lines.

The conclusion is one that food and beverage companies will be familiar with: though price continues to be a driver for consumers, the real winner is the popularity of healthy convenience, with health-conscious foods playing a major role, with this growing trend involving both brands and consumers pushing manufacturers to change their recipes and develop healthier lines.

This demand has been behind the big product reformulation drive by companies in recent years that has also resulted in nearly 2500 products on supermarket shelves having the Health Star Rating scheme’s stars.

I’m predicting a great response from buyers for supermarket to the products in F&B Market Ready.

Working with the wider food sector also has its rewards, none more so than an opportunity that presented itself at the Food & Grocery Council’s annual conference in Wellington in November.

Most people will have heard of Eat my Lunch, an initiative that gives a free lunch to a child who would normally go without. It works on a ‘buy one, give one’, model, where someone who buys one of the lunches effectively sponsors a free one for a child.

The child’s lunch typically consists of a wholegrain sandwich with a protein and salad filling, a healthy snack (eg. veggie sticks, yogurt or fruit) and a treat (biscuit, popcorn or pretzel), all inside a brown paper bag. All lunches, the bought ones and the free ones, are freshly made and delivered the same day.

It’s a fantastic idea, providing 1800 lunches a day to 51 schools in Auckland, Hamilton, and Wellington – a total so far of around 550,000. But being staffed mainly by volunteers, its reach was limited. That was until September when Foodstuffs North Island bought 26 per cent of the company, a move CEO Chris Quin said was designed to help Eat My Lunch expand into regional areas by using Foodstuffs’ supply chain and retail knowledge.

FGC has always admired what Eat My Lunch was doing, and Foodstuffs’ involvement prompted us to consider how we could do our bit. It seemed our conference was an opportune time to demonstrate our support, so we cancelled our lunch arrangements and ordered Eat My Lunch for the last day – which just so happened to be World Sandwich Day.

(originally published in Supermarket News)