The future will be different
By Andy Walker
As far as Kim McConnell is concerned, agriculture has a record of success on the national and international scene that is comparable to hockey.
That fact poses a major question for the marketing and the communications guru—why don’t Canadians get excited about agriculture the way they do for their on-ice heroes. He told the recent Agri-Insight conference one reason has been the failure of the industry to tell its own story.
The founder and former CEO of AdFarm said if agriculture does not toot its own horn, others will step in to fill the vacuum—often with an agenda that is at odds with the industry. He told the meeting “this is not your grandfather’s industry—look at the size and the amount of dollars involved—this is a big business, big dollars industry.”
That is why leadership at the producer and processor level is so important, adding there are a number of what he called ‘game changers’ that are now coming into play. Those include an aging population, consumers demanding smaller portion sizes, an increase in the number of women in the industry and the arrival of the first generation of ‘Internet kids’ into positions of leadership.
‘Make no mistake, the next generation will change this industry,” he told the meeting. “They think differently and they act differently.”
He said technology will also create major changes. As well, today’s industry must deal with changing demographics—the population is aging and becoming more ethnically diverse. Statistics Canada recently revealed the number of people who expect to retire within the next five to seven years now exceeds the number of people who will be entering the work force during the same period. As well, 45 per cent of the population of Toronto was not born in Canada—an all time high.
“The question we must now ask ourselves as an industry is ‘are we living up to our potential,” he told the meeting. “Now more than ever and we have to innovate or die.”
McConnell said it is vital all sectors of the food industry work together to develop a single, strategic plan to face the future. He added “these are changing times—we have to be ready for a downturn and we have to be prepared to manage both a downturn and an upside.”