IS THE FUTURE ABOUT PREMIUM CONSUMER-PRODUCTS?

CONSUMER-PRODUCT SWOT ANALYSIS

The following was largely written a couple of years ago but it has been dusted off because it makes a change to write something positive amidst the commodity-induced gloom that is now engulfing too much of the farming industry.

The following is a SWOT analysis of switching to a product-focused strategy.

HIGHER-VALUE-PRODUCT FOCUS STRENGTHS

  •  The positive, widespread international image of Ireland and a green Ireland
  •  Ireland is well suited to the production of natural, high-quality food products
  •  An agricultural resource base and climate that is suited to grass-fed farming
  •  Value-added products will not require such a production-expansion approach
  •  Higher-value with lower output should be environmentally more sustainable
  •  Lower climatic-linked risks with fewer livestock targeted at producing value
  •  Compact Irish agricultural industry suited to higher supply-chain traceability
  •  Producing high-value-added products should mean wider rural job creation
  •  Additional local employment can enhance family-farm household incomes
  •  Potential for less capital investment and the usage of more ‘artisanal’ labour
  •  May give more of the supply-chain margin to the farmer and local processor
  •  Small domestic markets suited to gradual product and market development
  •  Reduce farmer exposure to decisions made by a few supply-chain partners
  •  Farmers avoid processors over-committing them to one route-to-market

HIGHER-VALUE-PRODUCT FOCUS WEAKNESSES

  •  Historically the industry is dominated by agricultural commodity production
  •  ‘Commodity’ is embedded into the thinking of Ireland’s farming leadership
  •  Current processing investments still very focused on producing commodities
  •  National policy emphasis too much towards volume and economics of scale
  •  Conservative resistance to change at the both processing and the farm level
  •  Very little current involvement of farmers with value-added food products
  •  Some on-farm changes needed to produce specifically for premium foods
  •  Learning and training needs will be high to develop new processing skills
  •  Creating new food products and developing their markets will take time
  •  Lower population density limits sales through the likes of farmers’ markets
  •  Dominance of the supermarkets makes new-product market-access difficult
  •  Small domestic market limits scale of development before having to export
  •  Some target export markets are becoming more local-product orientated
  •  Need other characteristics to overcome being non-local in export markets
  •  Will need to reconfigure route-to-markets to support smaller processors
  •  Little history of producing designated-origin, higher-value food products
  •  Need to develop systems to consolidate premium products for exporting
  •  Developing the higher-value, consumer-foods sector will not be a quick fix

HIGHER-VALUE-PRODUCT FOCUS OPPORTUNITIES

  •  Greater consumer concern about eating over-processed, industrial foods
  •  Consumers and retailers demanding yet more traceability and provenance
  •  A rising consumer belief in the health benefits of eating grass-fed products
  •  Farming systems and stockmanship that appeal to issues-aware consumers
  •  Could benefit from an eat-less-meat-but-pay more-for-it consumer approach
  •  Possibilities to bring together multiple, positive characteristics in one product
  •  Increasing consumer awareness in mature markets of multi-functional foods
  •  Consumers’ demand for a diversity of products that reflects their ‘awareness’
  •  Opportunities to add value and to make each unit of farm production ‘count’
  •  The chance to link premium farm produce with premium-paying consumers
  •  Some people want to see more than just food in exchange for EU payments
  •  Fragmented land should make it easier for dynamic, farm-industry entrants
  •  Lower rural housing prices suited to artisan and/or food-sector labour force
  •  Increasing interest in agriculture and agri-food as a feasible career choice
  •  A value-added farming focus may provide more farming opportunities
  •  Integrated farming/processing may be more interesting to the young

HIGHER-VALUE-PRODUCT FOCUS THREATS

  •  Too little support for the sector from short-term-focused policy-makers
  •  Too many research and marketing resources going to support commodities
  •  Too little knowledge of international high-value consumer-product markets
  •  Too much focus on reducing on-farm costs and too little on enhancing value
  •  A farming industry that is too reluctant to change to become near-to-market
  •  An agricultural press that is too orientated towards supply-driven production
  •  Farmers’ supply-chain partners who would prefer to maintain the status quo
  •  Dominant down-stream players determining the agri-food sector’s direction
  •  Processing throughput/cost-reduction is more important than farm income
  •  Less dynamism caused by downstream consolidation to compete globally
  •  Ethical/ecological credentials not enhanced by commodity-sales focus
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