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NZ Food And Beverage Businesses Confident, Innovating At Pace

A survey of almost 300 New Zealand food and beverage businesses has shown two thirds are feeling positive about the viability of their business in the coming 12 months.

The survey was conducted by NZ food science and innovation hub, FoodHQ, in the midst of Lockdown Level 3 last week. Respondents included 64 companies with over 50 employees and 125 small business with under 5 staff, located across NZ. Over half of those surveyed export food and beverage products, with Australia and Asia the most common export markets.

Those feeling most confident tended to operate in the areas of horticulture, cereals and grains, dairy or provide the food sector with equipment, packaging, ingredients or advice (65-70% were very or somewhat positive about their business over the coming 12 months). Those who rely significantly on tourism and hospitality, including manufacturers of alcoholic beverages, coffee and confectionary, were understandably less confident, but 45% were still very or somewhat positive about the next year.

FoodHQ CEO, Dr Abby Thompson says she was buoyed by the confidence and determination of the food and beverage sector at this time.

“The survey clearly showed that the lockdown has driven rapid innovation, with 23% of the food businesses changing the types of products they made and 50% changing how and where they sell their products.”

Despite the lockdown disruption 72% of businesses surveyed had retained all their staff. The wage subsidy had been claimed by 61% of respondents, with a slightly higher percentage of these being smaller businesses.

A third (32%) of the food and beverage businesses were expecting staffing levels to drop below their pre-Covid projections within six months. A number commented if the wage subsidy is not extended in some form, they will be forced to reduce staff numbers.

Most businesses (73%) have seen a reduction in turnover and almost 60% expect that turnover will remain below their projections prior to Covid-19.

However, 18% feel their turnover will exceed levels they had projected pre-Covid, over the next 6 months, suggesting that they had been able to take advantage of opportunities offered by the changed environment.

Dr Abby Thompson says while 35% of businesses said they did not require any further support at this time, other businesses identified a variety of areas where they would appreciate support in order to enable them to successfully reposition.

“For example, we had a number of businesses identify areas such as marketing costs associated with launching new products into new markets, consumer research on changes in consumer requirements, and a continuing focus on reopening export channels and removing barriers to exporting food products.”

Dr Thompson said 62% of respondents had received government support at the time of the survey in early May, and the survey comments suggested businesses would value additional flexibility in the assistance packages and general business support.

Only 17% of those surveyed have received a reduction in their commercial rent, something that a number commented was causing financial strain.

Dr Thompson says FoodHQ plans to share the information gathered in the survey with local and central government to assist them make decisions to support New Zealand’s food and beverage sector.

© Scoop Media

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