Chief communications & market development officer Christine Watts explained the changes in the organisation. “Our industry is changing faster than at any point before. We need to move with the times to ensure we are reaching the right people with the right messaging, using the right mix of expertise to get the best value for money for our farmers and processors.”
“AHDB and the industry have exciting and challenging times ahead, not least because of the uncertainty arising from a post-Brexit world,” said Watts. “We are determined to make our contribution through partnership with trade and Government and the efficient management of resources along-with understanding emerging, and exploiting existing, markets. Ultimately we seek to inform, influence and steer investment and decision making to ensure industry delivers what customers will trust and buy.
“To do this effectively, we have restructured our market development function, adding resource where needed, switching individuals to make best use of their skills and increasing investment where necessary, as agreed by the individual sector boards.”
With levy payer money at stake, Watts said that the organisation had to financially efficient. “Budget management and creativity in campaign planning are key as we move forward. I make no apology for making clear that money is important but so, too, are the people, their skills and knowledge. From a financial point of view, sector budgets remain ring-fenced for sector specific initiatives.
“It is important to point out also that we have fully reviewed all work to ensure we are investing more in front level services. So, for instance, we may have pulled back from some of the routine advertising we did in some trade publications to reinvest in people and front line work. This hasn’t gone down well with everyone, but is absolutely the right thing to do.
“This year we are spending nearly £2 million extra on market development and communications. This totals around 25 per cent of AHDB income. This demonstrates our ongoing commitment to promotion, notably in red meat. There have been suggestions that we are pulling back from supporting the red meat sector. This is absolutely not the case. We have just reorganised how we do it to get better value for money.”
The organisation is currently recruiting for several posts including head of domestic marketing, head of meat marketing, consumer marketing manager) and consumer marketing executive.
Addressing recent departures, Watts said: “Inevitably, some familiar names have decided not to stay at AHDB. That is part of the natural process and we wish them well in the future career. We are very proud to have such a strong, respected staff who are in demand by other organisations. It’s a privilege to work with such talented and hardworking people who are dedicated to deliver for those who fund us.
“There are still gaps to fill and, inevitably, some people have chosen to move on but what we will be left with is a team working in a system better equipped to meet the challenges and exploit the opportunities available, whether these are at home or abroad.”
She also explained how AHDB has shifted its focus to overseas markets. “Through a better assignment of roles and responsibilities, with a new regional focus for much of our export work, our Exports Team are able to devote more time to important market access and market development activities. The Exports Team works closely with the digital & creative and comms teams to align, where possible, to the Government’s Food Is Great strategy at international shows.
“We have also created a number of new regional ‘heads of’ roles to promote red meat around the globe, notably in Asia Pacific, Africa and the Middle East.”
AHDB is also continuing its red meat partnership and collaboration, according to Watts. “AHDB continues to build on its education partnership with the British Nutrition Foundation with plans to launch a revamped Food, A Fact of Life website this autumn. We will be revisiting our nutrition work in the light of a new strategy, which is currently in development.
“We continue to work with international partners and are specifically looking at £2 million of joint work with HCC in Wales and QMS, in Wales, in areas like meat and health, market access and Brexit."
Quality Standard Marks
“Our Quality Standard Marks (QSM) for beef and lamb continue to perform well, complementing Red Tractor work and giving consumers assurance that what they are buying meets set standards on things like animal welfare and environmental impact. This is increasingly important.
“While our research shows us that consumers still, ultimately, buy on price more than anything else, there is increasing concern for animal welfare. We have some of the best standards in the world and we need to ensure the consumers are aware of this. Quality assurance marks helps with that.”