Harnessing and using data to better understand consumers, being able to pivot, and being extraordinary, are key to food and beverage brands’ success, says an international expert in growing food and beverage businesses.

New Zealand AgriFood Week’s international keynote speaker Rob Ward is the founder and director of the World’s first food and drink accelerator, The Grocery Accelerator. He gave his opening address at the New Zealand AgriFood Week Official Opening on Tuesday 12 March, to an audience of more than 150. The following day, he presented at AgResearch Future Feeders, an in-depth event focused on the future of food from the perspectives of industry leaders, across generations.

He says food and beverage brands from New Zealand are held in high regard among consumers in the UK and Europe.

“New Zealand is incredibly good at what it does, but not enough people know about it.”

Ward provided insights into how British consumers view New Zealand products and says consumers have a big appetite for more food and beverages from New Zealand, further to lamb, wine and wool, which the country is predominantly known for.

“New Zealand is sitting on a goldmine of provenance; the country needs to get those stories across to the rest of the world.”

With his experience in running accelerator programmes, he believes new food and beverage brands need to look at how the tech sector operates and mimic how they build successful brands, quickly.

“Having access to quality data and interpreting that data allows brands to fail quickly and affordably and then pivot. They may only need to change one small element to their brand to ensure sales and success.

“The future for New Zealand food brands is to be extraordinary and they can achieve this through what I like to refer to as the ‘Love Triangle,’ that is ensuring their brand sits at the centre of heart, purpose and place.”

New Zealand AgriFood Week runs from March 11 to 17 and hosts more than 15 events, workshops and competitions, which sit at the intersection of food, technology and agriculture. It is the fourth year the week is taking place in Manawatu, a renowned central hub for agribusiness and food tech innovation.

“The diversity of this year’s events is a testament to our sponsors, partners and speakers and the appetite we have to more deeply connect with each other’s expertise,” says Linda Stewart, chief executive of the Central Economic Development Agency.

“The themes being discussed at New Zealand AgriFood Week events are central to driving change.

“Involving younger generations in discussions and decision making, exploring what stories we are telling and whether these are the right ones for the right audience, and using data and insights to better understand what consumers are wanting, are all crucial to developing the country’s role as a global, high value food producer.”

The Central Economic Development Agency is proud to deliver New Zealand AgriFood Week, in association with ASB and in partnership with 18 other organisations who deliver workshops and events throughout the Week.

Throughout New Zealand AgriFood Week, Ward is sharing his insights and expertise at a series of events, including a Food Business Innovation Master Class, hosted by FoodHQ and the Food Innovation Network and a UK-focused exporting workshop, led by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and CEDA. His trip has been made possible through support from AgMARDT, a key partner of the Week.

It is the fourth year that ASB has been the main sponsor of New Zealand AgriFood Week and ASB general manager of rural banking Richard Hegan says like with other sectors, disruption is the new reality. Simply producing more and more isn’t the way of the future, and that’s why supporting events such as New Zealand AgriFood Week is important.

“At ASB we have a history deeply influenced by innovation and our Rural Banking team is passionate about helping our customers continue to innovate. We’re excited to be in Manawatu and celebrate the work currently being done to keep New Zealand at the top of global agriculture and food production.

“It’s also a vital opportunity to talk with primary industry leaders, future leaders, producers and consumers, about how to evolve even further and deliver the next phase of value for agriculture,” says Hegan.

“The sustainable production of high-quality food that balances the needs and expectations of consumers, our communities and stakeholders is at a critical stage. To stay at the forefront, we need to get our story right so consumers, no matter where in the world they call home, insist on our produce in their stores because they see more value and authenticity in our produce. Getting more for what we produce – not simply producing more.”

For more information:
Jemma Brackebush
Communications Senior
027 253 5393

New Zealand AgriFood Week Overview:
MONDAY – 11 MARCH
Plate of Origin

TUESDAY – 12 MARCH
How Challenger Food Brands Can Win by Using Story Telling
New Zealand AgriFood Week: Opening Night
Plate of Origin

WEDNESDAY – 13 MARCH
ASB Perspective 2025
AgResearch: Future Feeders
Safer Farming Design Jam
AgWomen Global Book Launch
Plate of Origin

THURSDAY – 14 MARCH
Central Districts Field Days
Food Business Innovation Masterclass
Horizons Ballance Farm Environment Awards Evening
Plate of Origin
AgTech Hackathon

FRIDAY – 15 MARCH
Central Districts Field Days
Feilding Farmers’ Market
NZTE – Session One: Exporting to the UK
NZTE – Session Two: Exporting Overview
Plate of Origin
AgTech Hackathon

SATURDAY – 16 MARCH
Central Districts Field Days
Plate of Origin
AgTech Hackathon

Sunday – 17 March
Hokowhitu Village Farmers’ Market

About New Zealand AgriFood Week:
New Zealand AgriFood Week takes place in Manawatu from March 11 – 17 and is the country’s only week dedicated to celebrating, showcasing and developing New Zealand as a food nation. Complementary events throughout the week sit at the intersection of agriculture, food and technology and provide a platform for influential thought leaders from all sectors to explore global challenges and opportunities facing food producers. Attendees can select from the range of events throughout the week, which culminates with New Zealand’s largest regional agriculture event, Central Districts Field Days. New Zealand AgriFood Week is delivered by the Central Economic Development Agency, in association with ASB. For more details, visit nzagrifoodweek.co.nz.

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