Press release: Grant Thornton report says food industry needs to extend sustainability beyond “Greenness”

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25 October 2012

Research published today by Grant Thornton highlights that the food and beverage sector needs to look beyond the “greenness” of food production. Sustainability is also about the financial stability of the sector, and the sharing of risk, reward, and effort across all participants in the supply chain.

Businesses need to act now to capitalise on the opportunities brought about by a rapidly growing global population, who are demanding increased quantities and varieties of food, combined with fundamental shifts in productivity, technology, supply chain efficiency and innovation.

The report “Food 4.0: The dynamics of Supply & Demand” highlights that:
• 30% of EU citizens will be 65 or older by 2060, compared to just 12% in the 1960s. This creates challenges and opportunities for producers and consumers alike.
• Cereal prices have risen by 17% in the past 3 months worldwide, creating new waves of food inflation and causing input cost pressure for the feed dependent poultry and pig-meat sectors.

Speaking about the report at a Grant Thornton seminar this morning Ciara Jackson, Head of Food & Beverage, said “In a volatile and fast changing food and beverage industry sustainability will only occur if fundamental changes in productivity, smart innovation, pricing transparency and co-operation are agreed across the Irish food supply chain.”

The report argues that there are fundamental changes underway in food commodity prices, regulation and access to funding. Productivity improvements and technology-led innovation are challenging the production dynamic across all sectors. This changing dynamic is causing many businesses, countries and international organisations to reflect on how food is sustainably produced, to secure supply to meet the needs of tomorrow’s consumer. There is however no simple or single answer to the global challenges of feeding the world’s expanding population, doubling food production and creating a secure and sustainable supply chain.

Ciara Jackson continued: “Consumer insights are key. Understanding how core purchasing decisions are shaped by relative prices, incomes, age, preferences and technology will be the ‘new normal’ in which clever data capture and analysis will be as important as the manufacturing process of the product itself.“

Grant Thornton believe that the Irish food and beverage sector is at a critical inflection point. At present 85% of Irish food and beverage output is exported, with many of Ireland’s export markets experiencing austerity. Competition, therefore, for share of wallet is intensifying.

Today’s global consumers are:
• eating a more varied diet;
• increasingly more frugal and cost-conscious;
• living longer, with a rise in a more fitter, more active older segment;
• interested in value, convenience, health and wellness and provenance; and
• using technology to change how, when and where they shop.

Through progressively adapting to a fast-changing farm, processor, retail and consumer environment, Ireland has a unique opportunity with its rich natural resources and deep knowledge base to be a global leader in sustainable and profitable food production.

• A copy of the full report is available for download at
• Pictures from the launch event at the Aviva Stadium, attended by Minister for Agriculture, Food & Marine Simon Coveney, are available on request.

For further information and interview requests with Ciara Jackson please contact:

Maria Doyle, Fleishman-Hillard, +353 1 618 8431 / +353 87 990 7831 or

Douglas Keatinge, Fleishman-Hillard, +353 1 618 8437 / +353 86 037 4163 or