GEN trolley full of fresh produce in supermarket alley


The rise of the discounters in the UK – with only a relatively small share of the overall market, the discounters are growing rapidly and shaking up the retail scene. For years we convinced ourselves in the UK that the discount form of retailing was a “continental thing” and not for us. It turns out we love it.


China – a mass producer, a challenging import market, an influential exporter, a strong processor (of mushrooms, asparagus, apples and tomatoes, to name a few) – we haven’t even begun to feel the real influence of China in the global produce sector.


Free Trade Agreements – Chile are the experts in this and have negotiated with over 70 countries, and this has helped underpin their impressive export growth.


The nine billion factor – we all know that the world’s population is heading towards this. We knew it 20 years ago actually, and we need to spend more time thinking about what we are going to do about it rather than talking around it.


Global sourcing – this has become a day-to-day reality with produce entering the UK and other key international markets from a plethora of sources from around the world, even countries where it was thought unlikely. Ethiopia might be a classic case, as it is now the fourth-biggest exporter of flowers in the world – watch out the Netherlands, Kenya and India.


Farming is popular again – investment is flooding into the sector, be it in emerging markets or much closer to home, seen in the recent acquisition of land in the UK by Sir James Dyson or the creation of high-tech businesses such as Thanet Earth in Kent.


Social media – everyone is using it. Facebook has one in six people on the planet using it. LinkedIn has over 300 million members and two join every second of the day. We send one billion tweets every week, and 300 hours of content is being uploaded every minute to YouTube.


The drive for CSR – 10 years ago, we were paying lip service to this. Now concerns over water, energy, employment and the environment are sky high on the corporate agenda. In countries like India, they often look at the UK with a sense of amazement and say “we have been doing much of this for years – it just makes good sense, why wouldn’t you do it...”


Niches drive mainstream habits – areas such as Fairtrade have seen phenomenal growth, and brands such as Pink Lady have become far more important than they were 10 years ago. The organic sector remains influential – if not in terms of overall market share, then in how farmers produce and how consumers think.


The rebirth of wholesale markets – interest in local food, provenance, a booming foodservice culture in most major towns and cities have all played into the hands of wholesale markets, after a period when the writing appeared to be on the wall for many of them around 10 to 15 years ago.

The world is moving at a pace that has never been seen before. Keeping well informed as to what will happen, why and when, and not falling into the trap of thinking that won’t happen here, is the only way companies will survive, let alone thrive.

John Giles is a divisional director with Promar International, an agri-food consultant and subsidiary of Genus plc. He has worked in the fresh and processed produce sectors in the UK/EU, Africa, Latin & Central America, the Middle East, Asia, Australasia and the US. Email: