23 March 2022, NZ: Wellness is now the biggest food opportunity of our lifetime, says Alice Moore, general manager of BerryCo.
“The health and wellness food category has been spurred on by Covid-19 with more and more people exploring how they can eat themselves into better health,” says Alice, who is also a member of Women in Horticulture and is based in the Bay of Plenty.
“Clearly established links between the types of foods we eat and nutrition, mental, emotional and physical health, mean consumers are more aware than ever of what goes into their bodies and how food can impact not just physical health but moods and emotional health too.”
New Zealand farmers and growers are well placed to be part of this trend with a well-deserved reputation for the high-quality, nutrient dense foods they produce in international markets.
“In particular, blueberries have a strong fit in the wellness space with their status as a superfruit offering the opportunity for high growth,” says Alice. “The blueberry industry is ripe for innovation through both its approach to marketing and improved varieties that offer superior characteristics.
“BerryCo has a distinct advantage with rights to grow and market the highly sought-after Mountain Blue Orchard (MBO) Southern Highbush varieties.
“I was inspired to take the role of general manager by the opportunity to collaborate with and support growers to build production knowledge and capabilities and to drive sustainable value through disciplined sales and marketing programmes.”
Alice joined BerryCo in October 2021 after five years managing the Zespri organic kiwifruit portfolio. Prior to that, she spent several years in various commercial and marketing primary sector roles including working for Ballance Agri-Nutrients, National Foods and Dairy Women’s Network.
A career in the primary industries didn’t initially appeal until Alice spent her latter school years in the hostel at Feilding Agricultural High School.
“I was surrounded by friends who lived on farms and spent a lot of weekends in farm environments which gave me a few ‘aha’ moments,” she says. “The first of these was when a good friend said she wanted to study to become a farm consultant. I couldn’t understand why, didn’t farmers already know how to farm?
“The second was when the same friend’s father prepared to leave the farm dressed in a business suit, briefcase in hand. I asked where he was going and he responded he had a board meeting to attend – this blew my mind – farmers have board meetings?
“I soon came to understand there were a wide range of exciting career options in the primary sectors and I am really thankful to my friends for helping me see that.
I’ve stayed in the sector because I love the connection with growers and producers and feel privileged to play my part in supporting the growth of sustainable, healthy communities across New Zealand.”
Understanding consumers and what they want is vital to the success of New Zealand food producers, Alice says.
“The consumer has all the power to either purchase our brands or not. We need to understand the drivers behind their decision making to find the best ways to encourage them to purchase.”
Building and maintaining a strong connection between the grower and the market is crucial and will become more important as consumers seek transparency and sustainability from the brands they purchase.
“New Zealand producers have great stories to share, however it is important to have a deep understanding of consumers and their ‘why’ to help narrow down the stories they want to hear and the language used to weave your tale. Only then will you begin building a meaningful and lasting connection with consumers.”
BerryCo has more than 30 growers from the Far North to Motueka. While blueberries were first introduced in the 1950s, growing MBO varieties in New Zealand is relatively new and Alice says there remains much to learn.
“Labour costs are high as blueberries are very labour intensive to pick, which has been magnified by the current labour shortages. While New Zealand achieves acceptable yields, competing countries achieve as good or better.
“The opportunity is in working alongside growers to rapidly build and spread knowledge of how to get the most from MBO varieties in our conditions, and growing a strong consumer brand in berries that communicates a high-quality proposition to consumers in a meaningful way.”