NI's Agri-Food Sector Encouraged to Track Trends

January is the month for ‘new beginnings’ and with that many new food trends.  In 2017, we witnessed the unicorn craze, the love of turmeric and the rise of the eco consumer. What hot food trends await us in 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.”  This was just one piece of advice given by Mintel’s Brian O’Connor to an audience of Northern Ireland’s leading food industry representatives at the Ulster University Business School’s Agri-Food Business Development Centre’s first event of 2018.

“There are five key areas of great importance to consumers which the food industry ignores at its peril,” continued Mr O’Connor, Mintel Ireland’s Senior Consumer Analyst and Research Production Manager.  “Nutritional information, ingredients, claims, clean label and sustainability 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.”

The Agri-Food Business Development Centre was set up by Ulster University Business School in May 2017 to offer specialist teaching on aspects of agri-food business and engage with industry and policy-makers to provide businesses with educational offerings and evidence informed research to help improve the competitive position of the NI agri-food industry.  The Mintel-led event was the first of the series of bespoke agri-food information sessions planned for this year.

Agri-Food Centre Manager, Dr Lynsey Hollywood, explains, “The agri-food industry is Northern Ireland’s key indigenous industry worth over £4bn per annum.  In its efforts to achieve sustained business growth the sector faces many challenges, one of which is accessing meaningful research.  Filling that gap is one of the many roles the Centre will play and this event with Mintel was an important opportunity for businesses to gain insights into future trends.  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.”