A record 300-plus delegates packed into Villa Maria Estate in South Auckland in May for the NZ Food and Grocery Council’s AGM and Half-Yearly Meeting.

Guest speakers included Finance Minister Steven Joyce, Sir Rod Eddington, the non-executive Chairman (Australia & New Zealand) of J.P. Morgan, and Chairman of Lion, and Pier Smulders, the Business Development Director of Alibaba for New Zealand.

The theme of the day was strongly on Asia and the export opportunities there for food and grocery companies.

A week out from his first Budget, Steven Joyce gave delegates a rundown on where the economy is at, and talked about the Government’s Business Growth Agenda. A strong focus was on exports and how government agencies were focused on opening trade doors into Asia and keeping them open. To back this up, companies had to continue to innovate to take advantage of the huge opportunities. Export success enables the Government to pay off debt and to build infrastructure.

Pier Smulders gave delegates a taster on how the China’s giant online sales portal Alibaba, with its 100,000 brands, can help New Zealand exporters. He said if they were to take advantage of Alibaba’s reach into the China market, companies had to have compelling messages to go with their good-quality products, and to constantly innovate to keep at the top of the market.

Sir Rod Eddington also talked about the many opportunities being offered by China, Japan and other economies of north Asia. He said the key was producing world-class products which can be sold at a premium, and New Zealand was extremely well placed to take advantage of these markets.

The conference farewelled the outgoing Chair, Nestle Country Manager Veronique Cremades, and confirmed Goodman Fielder Manager Director Tim Deane as her successor.