‘Agri-food: Ignore consumer data at your peril’ – industry analyst warns

Just five key points form the basis of consumer food buying decisions, Mintel’s Brian O’Connor told an audience of Northern Ireland’s leading agri-food industry representatives recently.

He warned that the industry could ignore consumer demands at its own detriment.

O’Connor – who is Mintel Ireland’s senior consumer analyst and research production manager – was the keynote speaker at the Ulster University Business School’s Agri-Food Business Development Centre’s first event of 2018.

Through the use of consumer insight, agri-food companies in Northern Ireland can create great products; but unless they adhere to consumer concerns, those products will never become successful brands.

“There are five key areas of great importance to consumers, which the food industry ignores at its peril,” he said.

They are:

  • Nutritional information;
  • Ingredients;
  • Claims;
  • Clean label;
  • And sustainability.

He explained how the five points form the core attributes which brands must communicate to consumers in order to stay ahead of the game.

“Mintel’s evidence-based research examines each of these areas highlighting what a ‘successful brand’ looks like, with the aim of inspiring companies to innovate.”

£4 billion industry

The Agri-Food Business Development Centre was set up by the Ulster University Business School in May 2017.

It has the aim of offering specialist teaching and engaging with industry and policy-makers to provide businesses with evidence-informed research to improve the competitive position of the NI agri-food industry.

Agri-Food Centre manager Dr. Lynsey Hollywood explains: “The agri-food industry is Northern Ireland’s key indigenous industry worth over £4 billion per annum.

In its efforts to achieve sustained business growth, the sector faces many challenges; one of which is accessing meaningful research.

“Using market research like this to understand how a consumer behaves will enable the sector to anticipate consumer demands and to encourage them to develop innovative added value products that meet those needs.”