There is a significant opportunity for New Zealand to position itself to take advantage of the global regenerative agriculture trend, according to market research into consumer attitudes commissioned by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and New Zealand Winegrowers (NZW).
But there is a recognition, too, that there is no clear definition of regenerative agriculture globally.
This paves the way for ‘regenerative’ being defined in a New Zealand context.
Although still in its infancy, regenerative agriculture is gathering momentum and is set to become a significant trend in food internationally, says Sam McIvor, chief executive of B+LNZ.
“Brands are beginning to follow the leads of farmers and growers in the support of regenerative agriculture, and while the concept has yet to properly take hold among consumers, this research reveals there is a bright future.
“Fortunately, we believe the majority of New Zealand’s sheep and beef farming practices naturally align with key pillars of regenerative products or production.
“This isn’t to say all farms are applying all regenerative agriculture principles all the time, but in general, New Zealand is better placed than other countries to meet these requirements. Our farming systems are so different from conventional agriculture such as in North America with their feedlot-raised beef and sheep meat.
“What this all means is there could be a significant opportunity for New Zealand sheep and beef farmers and wine growers to capture this value in the marketplace.”
Charlotte Read, General Manager Marketing for NZW says,
“We’re fortunate to be involved in this study to advance our understanding of how this emerging area of regenerative agriculture could fit with our industry’s current sustainability narrative.”
“The New Zealand wine industry is proud of having a world-leading sustainability programme in place since 1995, and as we strive to continually improve, we are committed to understanding the environmental considerations of wine drinkers in our global export markets, and how this impacts their purchasing decisions and how this impacts what we do in the vineyard,” says Read.
The research reveals consumers may be willing to pay more for regeneratively-produced food, especially if science can show it tastes better, is better for people’s health and better for the environment.
The research by Alpha Food Labs, commissioned by B+LNZ and NZW with funding support from the Government through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund as part of its Fit for a Better World programme, represents one of the most comprehensive reviews into the market potential of regenerative agriculture.
It sought to understand the current state and future market potential of regeneratively produced food and wine within three of New Zealand’s international markets – the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Mr McIvor says narratives that focused on the potential taste, health and environmental benefits of regeneratively produced food products resonated strongly with consumers, specifically the potential for regenerative agriculture to be part of a climate change solution.
“The study’s findings suggest there is strong potential to build regenerative agriculture into the New Zealand agriculture narrative.
“The red meat sector should adopt an integrated approach to marketing by ensuring the regenerative attributes are embedded into the New Zealand story, in particular, Taste Pure Nature, the New Zealand red meat sector’s country of origin brand.
“The regenerative agriculture movement is a chance for New Zealand to go deeper on communicating to the world the essence of New Zealand agriculture and provide new story dimensions to our existing global campaigns.
“Combining this story with future scientific research into potential connections between ecosystem health in New Zealand would provide a compelling argument for buying regeneratively grown foods.”
B+LNZ will now work with farmers and other industry partners to develop a firm plan on how the red meat sector can capture this potential value for New Zealand.
This will include exploring how regenerative agriculture aligns with Taste Pure Nature, what changes need to be made to marketing messages and the development of sector-specific principles, and the place of the New Zealand Farm Assurance Programme (NZFAP).
Nick Beeby, General Manager Market Development at B+LNZ, says the beef and sheep sector already likely has the infrastructure to capitalise on the regenerative agriculture trend including through NZFAP Plus and companies are interested in exploring this.
“We also have world-leading extension programmes and community support through our farm plans and catchment community groups.”
Sirma Karapeeva, chief executive of the Meat Industry Association, says some processors and exporters are starting to see potential for New Zealand to capture value in the regenerative space.
“While our farmers’ and exporters’ hard-earned world-leading reputation is a great start, the growing momentum around regenerative agriculture requires creative thinking. We are interested in exploring ways we can further leverage our undeniable competitive advantage globally, helping us to satisfy the demands of conscious consumers in the future.”
Mr Beeby says in the absence of a clear unified definition of regenerative agriculture globally, New Zealand must define what ‘regenerative’ means in a New Zealand context.
“We also need to examine other aspects to regenerative that may be worth adopting. Ultimately, this creates an opportunity for New Zealand to step forward to craft that definition. We need to make the concept simple and relevant for consumers.
“B+LNZ’s role will be to develop the framework in consultation with meat processing and marketing companies who can then work with farmers to take advantage of this opportunity.
“We believe the key is in how we tell the New Zealand farming story, the attributes, measurements, and verification that sit around this story and our claims.”