From the Editor: April 2009
By Kristy Nudds
Ever wish you had a crystal ball? I sure do. Lately, when I listen to
the news on the radio, watch TV or read a newspaper, I feel like
leaving everything behind and building myself a shack on top of a
mountain somewhere, not reliant or dependent on anything that seems to
be failing society right now.
Ever wish you had a crystal ball? I sure do. Lately, when I listen to the news on the radio, watch TV or read a newspaper, I feel like leaving everything behind and building myself a shack on top of a mountain somewhere, not reliant or dependent on anything that seems to be failing society right now.
There is just no escaping what’s been coined the “the Great Recession,” and I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering: how bad will it get? When will it end, and how long will it take us to get back on track? What will this new “track” look like?
There are a plethora of experts out there trying to figure out what our manufacturing and retail landscape might look like, but it’s really a crapshoot at this point – too many factors are involved to delve into this topic in such a small space.
For agriculture, there is no definitive answer on how consumers will alter their buying and consumption patterns, but as Peter Chapman, founder of the retail consulting company GPS Business Solutions, said during a presentation he gave at the recent Atlantic Poultry Conference, “the recession changes everything.”
Chapman is a former retail marketing executive with Loblaws who provides consulting services to agricultural producers and product manufacturers on how to increase sales and meet the needs of retailers. He spoke to poultry producers and industry representatives in Greenwich, N.S., in February on how producers and processors can work with retailers (see article, page 14).
Chapman is right – the recession does change everything. The goal of retailers is sales, and to achieve sales growth in the current economy will be no small task. Meeting evolving consumer needs is what will differentiate successful retailers from the rest.
And this doesn’t necessarily mean providing the cheapest product. General Mills CEO Ken Powell said in a Reuters article in late January that, “consumers in North America are rediscovering the grocery store and cooking at home again.”
While restaurants will likely struggle, the grocery store will be king with consumers. However, the fast, easy-to-prepare meals that have gained popularity in the past few years may now be replaced with how grandma used to do it – wholesome, homemade comfort foods that can be used for more than one meal. For poultry, this will likely result in an increased demand for the whole chicken.
How quickly retailers respond to consumer buying patterns will be key, and their response will be either hindered or helped by industry.
Chapman said the first step for industry working together with retail is to have a discussion and ask a retailer if its product needs are being met.
At a time when all meat industries will be vying for consumer attention, Chapman says poultry is poised to come out ahead, having a “great story compared to other proteins.”
Our investment in research and innovation will continue to set us apart, if we are willing to support and expand our research capacity in Canada. As noted by Chapman, if we don’t do it, someone else will.