Research into market potential of regenerative agriculture gets a boost

// Research

Research announced by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) earlier this year into the global market potential of regenerative agriculture has received a $390,000 funding boost from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

The research, originally focusing on New Zealand’s sheep and beef products, is also broadening to include a wine industry perspective.

B+LNZ CEO Sam McIvor says the research will now be even more useful. “While COVID-19 has delayed this work, it has also acted as a wake-up call about future challenges – and opportunities. Perhaps now more than ever the time is right to evaluate consumer and wider industry understanding and attitudes towards products produced using regenerative agriculture.

“This research will provide the sheep, beef and wine sectors, as well as the wider food and fibres sectors, their first large-scale, evidence-based picture of the potential market upsides – or downsides – of regenerative agriculture. 

“There has been a massive global surge in interest about regenerative agriculture in the last couple of years, and major multinationals like Danone and General Mills are exploring the marketing of regeneratively-produced products.

“There are diverse views around what regenerative agriculture actually is, and many people believe our farmers are already applying some of those principles in management practices like rotational grazing.  However, it’s critical we understand what consumers think and how influential players are acting.

“Understanding these factors helps us to better understand potential demand, and whether there are opportunities for New Zealand to leverage it. We want to get ahead of any opportunities so farmers, and now winegrowers too, can be best placed to take advantage of them.”

MPI is the majority funder of the research through its Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund, which supports innovation in New Zealand’s food and fibres sectors by co-investing in initiatives that make a positive and lasting difference.

“Regenerative agriculture is receiving a lot of attention lately,” says Steve Penno, Director Investment Programmes at MPI.

“This research will provide valuable insights into what consumers think regenerative agriculture is, and whether they’re willing to pay a premium for products that are produced using regenerative practices.”

Research will focus on consumers, industry and experts in key red meat and wine export markets (the US, UK and Germany). It will also explore local attitudes toward regenerative agriculture among farmers, processors, winegrowers and others to understand their views on its potential, and how it could be incorporated within our existing value chain.

The companies contracted to undertake the work are New York-based Alpha Food Labs, a world-leading consultancy with expertise in regenerative agriculture and co-founded by food innovator Mike Lee, and Forward, a New Zealand leader in international market research.

Michelle Barry from the Bragato Research Institute is interested in the potential market opportunities available to regeneratively-produced food and wine products. “Findings from the research could guide future vineyard management practices and evolve brand messaging across the wine industry.”

The research will be watched with interest by meat processors. Nicola Morgan, Sustainability Manager from First Light, is on the project steering group. “We’re always interested in opportunities to build on New Zealand’s strong international reputation for grass-fed meats and care for the environment. Understanding consumer perspectives on regenerative agriculture and relating this to what we do in New Zealand will be very valuable to us.”

Nicola Johnston, Group Marketing Manager from Silver Fern Farms Ltd welcomes the research, saying, “We believe the growing consumer interest in regenerative agriculture is signaling a real opportunity for the New Zealand food and fibres sector to achieve global recognition for our world-class grass-fed farming systems and position us at the leading edge of sustainable farming practice.

“The work B+LNZ is doing will play an important role in validating the potential for us to leverage this trend in our global marketing efforts, and build on the values of respect and care inherent in the Silver Fern Farms brand promise to our consumers around the world.”

Sam McIvor says B+LNZ welcomes the involvement of the Bragato Research Institute and thanks MPI for its support.

Results are expected in early 2021 and will be shared across the red meat and wine sectors.