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  • Writer's pictureMeyrick Consulting

The Food and Drink Industry needs you

It strikes me that sometimes when non-specialists think about the food and drink industry their first thought often revolves around restaurants and bars. Yes, of course they are the forward facing, customer serving, hospitality institutions but when we delve more deeply into the food industry these outlets are just the very tip of the iceberg.

I place executives in the food and drink industry

In the time I have been working within recruitment things have changed to such an extent I sometimes wonder if the past is a dream. Certainly I’ve found the adage is true; they really do, do things different there. So what is my point?

Do you ever consider these things when you sit down to eat?

Well, this week, in some down time I have been looking at what The Natural Resources Institute (NRI) of the University of Greenwich is doing. I came across it as I saw they are currently searching for Teaching Fellows. The university carries out specialised research and consultancy focussing on food, agriculture, environment and sustainable livelihoods. Their main four areas of interest and expertise are:

· Climate Change, Agriculture and Natural Resources

· Sustainable Agricultural Intensification

· Food Loss and Waste

· Food Systems for Improved Nutrition

The global attitude towards food has been transformed in recent years

The university is an award winner and has recently won the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Further and Higher Education. Looking at their work and their sectors prompted some thoughts about just how much executives in the food and drink industry have to bear in mind. The global attitude towards food has changed and continues to change at an accelerated pace. It’s not enough to launch a product and give little thought to the supply chain; the welfare of producers; where the product might or might not fit into a food system promoting improved nutrition or also the sustainability of what you might be doing as a business, locally, nationally and internationally.

How responsible should we be for all our food choices?

It’s a massive ask for any company or organisation but one that should be mandatory; we simply expect those things to be in place. After all, food underpins our whole existence and touches almost every aspect of our lives. We rely on its quality; we hope it might improve our nutrition or give us pleasure and we expect it to be safe. Of late many consumers are considering the impact of purchases on the environment and also the workers at the beginning of a supply chain. The trend is for more natural, balanced foods with a traceable provenance. We may well have a passion for avocados but we also know the impact this passion is having on producers, land clearance and the reliance on a mono crop.

Certainly, in my lifetime I have witnessed a number of significant food calamities

These include:

· In 1981 the Spanish cooking oil poisoning scandal caused over 1000 deaths and 25 000 serious injuries and was eventually named Toxic Oil Syndrome.

· We experienced BSE in the 1980s that devastated UK beef exports

· The horsemeat scandal in 2013 uncovered extraordinary food fraud throughout the supply chain.

· In 2008 powdered milk in China was adulterated leading to the deaths of 6 children and many thousands being hospitalised.

There have been many more too numerous to list and this is not a surprise as food fraud goes back millennia. For example, a law can be traced back to Ancient Rome that forbade adulterated food and watered down wine. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries parliament passed the Adulteration of Coffee Act 1718 so this is not new.

What is different today is our understanding of food fraud and the associated risks.

Failure to disclose food allergens can have profound consequences for some consumers. Any company associated with food fraud, even if it too is a victim, will experience brand rejection by consumers. All of this adds up to challenging but satisfying roles that are up for grabs in the Food and Drink Industry. If anyone is thinking about where they can use their creativity, passion and considerable skills then think again about joining the food industry; it’s somewhere that experiences profound changes. With the challenge of climate change, sustainable foods, veganism, designer proteins and all points between there is definitely a niche for your talents.

About Mike Meyrick

I am a highly experienced international executive search consultant specialising in leadership recruitment, with a proven track record of delivering high quality candidates to clients across many different sectors and global locations. Having recruited C-Suite and senior level executives I filled many niche confidential positions; I am regarded as an extremely professional recruiter operating with the highest level of integrity.


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