B+LNZ and NZW recently launched their joint research findings into the market potential for regenerative agriculture through a NZX webinar.
The recent webinar was hosted by Julia Jones with a panel discussion that included Mike Lee (Alpha Foods co-founder) who led the research, Steve Smith (Managing Director Aotearoa New Zealand Fine Wine Estates) and Nick Beeby, B+LNZ’s General Manager Market Development.
The reports recently released – The Market Scan and Consumer Insights – show a significant opportunity for New Zealand sheep and beef farmers to capture the value from regenerative agriculture in the marketplace. View the summary and full reports.
Although there is a wealth of information in the reports, below are some of the key takeaways as explained during the NZX webinar.
Regen ag – not like other sustainability movements
Mike Lee says that unlike other ‘sustainability movements’, the drive for regenerative agriculture is happening at both ends of the spectrum – at the grass-roots farmer level and by large companies such as General Mills.
“While the general consumer might not be aware of the term regenerative agriculture, I would argue that consumers have been asking for the key pillars of regen ag – they just don’t know what it is called yet.”
“If you remove the term and just talk about the spirit of regen ag which is seeking a healthier way to produce food that improves the planet, produces healthier food and provides more justice and equity for the people who produce the food – I think you’ll find that consumers have been asking for this on top of delicious, accessible food - they just don’t know the term regenerative agriculture.”
An opportunity for NZ to lead
Mike says, “Right now, New Zealand is not behind the trend or playing catch up. But rather, it’s a massive opportunity for New Zealand to be the leader in this space. New Zealand has to find its own way of doing regenerative agriculture which won’t look like other countries.”
“Fortunately, we believe many of New Zealand’s sheep and beef farming practices naturally align with these key pillars of regenerative products or production. Hence why it’s a significant opportunity for us,” says Nick Beeby.
Steve Smith highlighted that there is a unique, New Zealand, natural system approach – the idea of Taiao which is if the land is well, the water is well and if the air is well then the people are well.
“There’s a unique opportunity to put our lens over a regenerative approach. Our natural advantage is this incredible country, which is like nirvana for animals and plants that like our conditions. We see many examples at how this natural environment can deliver unique experiences for consumers,” says Steve.
Farmers know best – let’s empower them
“I would argue that regenerative agriculture is the one ‘sustainability movement’ that is a systems approach – It’s about recognising the interconnectivity of producing food. Everything is connected and farmers know that best because they are there everyday and I think we should give that power back to them,” says Mike.
In the Market Scan report, certification is listed as a catch-22. “I almost wanted to push back on the word ‘certification’ because although consumers rely on certifications to give a sense of trust and security, I think with regenerative agriculture we have to look at this differently,” explains Mike.
“Where the ‘organic’ certification is a check box exercise, regen ag focuses on the outcomes (rather than the inputs). It’s more about asking if producers are improving the state of their operation year on year. This leaves room for the farmers and growers to decide themselves how they achieve that.
“This gives the power, agency and choice back to the person who is on the land every day, rather than the office. We let producers find their own approaches that work best for their land but we agree to pursue the same goals focused on mitigating climate change, improving our environment and producing high-quality delicious food that is helpful and accessible by everyone.”
Linking quality and taste to the environmental benefits
Mike highlighted the importance of linking the environmental benefits from regenerative agriculture to the quality and taste difference.
“We have to be able to connect the health, soil and planet improvements to the quality of the food. We have to be able to show people what regen ag tastes like compared to its alternatives.”
He explains, “If you invest into regen ag without demonstrating the quality and accessibly of the food coming out of regen ag system, I personally think we’re only going to reach the front 10% of consumers who are actively seeking this out.”
“To make a real dent, and to achieve these goals, we have to target the mainstream consumers by connecting taste and the environmental benefits of regen ag.”
B+LNZ are co-funding research that examines the nutritional value of New Zealand pasture-raised beef, as consumed with grain-finished beef, and with a plant-based substitute.
The research carried out by the Riddet Institute has recently released some initial findings that identified better human health outcomes for pasture-raised product. Read about the initial findings.
B+LNZ’s role in looking for market opportunities
Nick Beeby says, “One of the roles B+LNZ has is to look out into the future and to see what new opportunities are out there and seek ways to create and capture more value from our natural and sustainable farming systems.”
“In 2019, B+LNZ released a report ‘Reshaping our future’ which is about looking at the bigger trends and the opportunities for NZ’s red meat sector. One of the opportunities identified is called ‘reframing our sustainability story’ – at the same time we a lot of social listening in our key export markets and we started seeing consumers were increasingly starting to talk about regenerative agriculture. It was getting past being a ‘fad’ into a mains team trend.
“So, we talked to our partners in the meat processing and processing sector. And talked to friend at NZ winegrowers and MPI – a lot of support to look into the opportunity and undertaking this work.”
“We really wanted to take a market lens.”
About B+LNZ's research into regenerative agriculture
In February 2020, B+LNZ announced we were going to undertake a significant global study into regenerative agriculture to understand its similarities and differences to New Zealand farming practices, the opportunities for farmers, and a global consumer perspective to understand what potential there is for New Zealand’s red meat exports to extract more value from sheep and beef products. Read the media release.
In September 2020, we announced the confirmation of funding from the Ministry for Primary Industries' Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund, and the expansion of the research to include a wine industry perspective. Read the media release.
Now with the first two phases of the research project complete – the market scan and the consumer research and insights – B+LNZ will release the results in a summary and full report, and through this webinar which gives the opportunity for discussion.