The National Dairy Council Annual Conference 2011

Promoting Sustainable Dairy Growth


Pictured (above) at The National Dairy Council Annual Conference 2011 at the Conrad Hotel, Dublin are (l-r) Simon Conveney TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Zoë Kavanagh, Chief Executive, NDC; and Munster and Ireland rugby player, Paul O'Connell.

Pictured at the NDC Annual Conference 2011 at the Conrad Hotel, Dublin are (l-r) Dr Mary Flynn, Chief Specialist in Public Health Nutrition, FSAI; Padraig Brennan, Senior Business Analyst, Bord Bia; Dominic Cronin, Chairman, NDC; Zoe Kavanagh, Chief Executive, NDC; and Aileen O'Toole, Managing Director, AMAS

Tuesday, 14 June, 2011 - "Irish exports had a record performance last year growing by a remarkable 9.4% and are expected to grow again this year by 6%. We need a renewed focus on the domestic economy to drive confidence and encourage consumer spending,” according to Danny McCoy, Director General of IBEC. He was the keynote speaker at the National Dairy Council annual conference in Dublin’s Conrad Hotel.

“Irish households are saving at record rates and this is impacting on the money being spent in the domestic economy. We need to get the message out there that Ireland's economic recovery is underway so that consumers have the confidence to start spending," said Mr. McCoy.

Simon Coveney, TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food & The Marine, delivered the Opening Address at the NDC Conference, which also featured a guest appearance by rugby giant Paul O’Connell.

The Minister noted that the current economic situation has highlighted the importance of the agri-food sector as a key driver of an export-led national recovery, highlighting the importance of the dairy sector as a key component of this growth.

“The dairy sector stands at a time of great challenges and of great opportunities, captured succinctly in the conference title. ‘Promoting sustainable dairy growth’ is really what it’s all about right now. That means rising to the challenges and exploiting the opportunities. The opportunities lie in the market and in the forces shaping market developments, and dealing with the challenges and promoting sustainable dairy growth is best facilitated through ongoing implementation of the Food Harvest 2020 strategy,” said Minister Coveney.

NDC Chairman, Dominic Cronin, said at the conference that the underlying trends in the marketplace are now broadly supportive of growth. “We are emerging from a difficult period, I believe, more determined and more focused on our future goals than at any other time in the recent past. We have seen with initiatives such as Food Harvest 2020, that agriculture in general – and dairy in particular – are now recognised as hugely important to the future economic development and wellbeing of our country,” said Mr. Cronin.

“All of us here today, have a shared interest in making sure that the Irish dairy industry has a future which is truly sustainable, both nationally and internationally,” said Mr. Cronin. “Although the National Dairy Council is a relatively small organisation, I believe it supports that process in a powerful way through its advocacy and promotional work on the home market. And I believe that the home market has to be right, if you want to use its credibility to support exports.”

Think Green: Environmental Issues Will Increasingly Dictate Purchase Decisions

Speaking at the NDC conference, Padraig Brennan, Senior Business Analyst with Bord Bía, highlighted the subject of sustainability, which relates to the challenge of feeding an ever increasing global population with finite resources in terms of agricultural land and water availability. “Over time, environmental issues will increasingly dictate purchase decisions,” said Mr. Brennan.

Mr. Brennan explained that while the current economic climate is dominating consumer decision making, Bord Bía’s Consumer Lifestyle Trends programme shows “Sustainable Lives” as being one of the six main trends among consumers globally and reflects a desire to buy “products that create less negative impact on the world and offer choices that make them feel good without harming their wallet”.

Similarly, Bord Bía Periscope research from 10 countries in 2010 saw almost 60% of consumers in some European markets saying that the statement “I am more conscious of Environmental issues when I’m choosing products” applied to them ‘a lot.’

Bord Bia research of leading European retailers and manufacturers highlighted the positive perception of Ireland’s sustainability credentials but showed the need for the food sector to provide proof in order to realise marketplace benefits.

“In line with Food Harvest 2020, the sector needs to “Think Green” in order to capitalise on the natural advantages that we possess as a food producer,” said Mr. Brennan. “Through the continued commitment of all parts of the industry to work together, we can fully deliver on the claim that “we are natural and we can prove it”.

Milk & Dairy: Well Positioned to Provide Nutritional Value

Speaking at the NDC conference, Dr. Mary Flynn, Chief Specialist in Public Health Nutrition with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, described healthy eating in Ireland as being all about optimizing our food intake to improve our health and well-being.

“Advice on healthy eating involves guidance in relation to the main food groups, with one entire food group devoted to dairy foods, where milk is now recognised as the most important food of the group,” said Dr. Flynn. “With more and more Irish people of all ages becoming overweight and obese the main focus of healthy eating advice is on low calorie and low fat options. Milk is truly amazing with low fat, or even fat-free, products just as high in valuable nutrients such as calcium and protein,” said Dr. Flynn.

Dr. Flynn said that many people would like to see calories being displayed on menus and mandatory nutrition labelling is now being developed at EU level. “This will almost certainly include information on the nutrients many Irish people need to cut down on – such as calories, fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar,” said Dr. Flynn. “Dairy foods are well placed to meet these developments having low-fat and fat-free alternatives.”

Dr. Flynn said that milk and dairy produce also provide nutritional value - dairy foods are cheap considering the nutrients they provide and how they can contribute to affordability of healthy eating during these difficult times in Ireland

Irish Consumers: On-Line Matches Television

Aileen O’Toole, Managing Director of internet consultancy AMAS, spoke at the NDC Conference about how the internet, and particularly social media, is changing consumer behaviour and their perceptions of food and retail brands.

“Irish people are spending as much time online each day as they are watching TV. Consumers are far from passive and routinely contribute ideas, views and experiences to a variety of different online channels, like discussion forms and social media sites such as Facebook,” said Ms. O’Toole. “Such fundamental change in media habits mean that traditional marketing approaches, where brands control the message and the channels they use, no longer apply. Consumers are informed, influenced and empowered by what they access online.”

Ms. O’Toole acknowledged that this presents considerable challenges to any organisation or business which wants to inform or influence consumers, for instance how best to counteract ill-informed or inaccurate statements. “But there are also opportunities to engage directly and proactively with consumers in the channels that consumers use to build loyalty and awareness of marketing and communications activities.”

Closing the National Dairy Council conference, NDC Chief Executive Zoë Kavanagh said that the NDC is at the midpoint of its 5 year strategy, “Dairy: Food for Life”, which promotes the consumption and image of dairy in Ireland. “The National Dairy Council recognises the vital importance dairy will play as part of Ireland’s agri and food agenda and is committed to the successful delivery of Food Harvest 2020,” said Ms. Kavanagh.


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