Why South East Queensland is perfectly positioned to be a global food innovator

Having been a central figure in the Chobani yoghurt growth story, New York’s Nicki Briggs believes South East Queensland is in the perfect position to capitalise on the growing demand for food innovation and increasing exports.

By Nicki Briggs, President of Near Boil Communications, New York

In the past decade, consumers have become much more aware of how their food is made, what is put into it and where it comes from, which is all very good news for South East Queensland as it is ideally positioned to take advantage of this growing awareness and developing markets.

And when I say ideally positioned, I mean that both metaphorically and literally.

South East Queensland has bountiful quality farming land, access to an established global supply chain to reach exports markets and, critically has the support of regulators and the business community to back and support start-ups.

The combination of accessibility, resources and overall passion and enthusiasm can be powerful and I expect will see many new food innovators set up shop in the area in coming years.

I was invited last year to speak at Brisbane’s Future Food Day, an initiative of Brisbane Marketing’s Economic Development Board, to talk about disruption in the food sector and it was then that I realised how important an agricultural hub this is for Australia.

Now my eyes are wide open and I speak a lot with early staged food brands in the US about how much awaits them with a partnership with Queensland and the fact that these incredible resources exist.

There seems to be a lot of support for incubators and programs to help start-ups into manufacturing within South East Queensland and this is as important as access to natural resources.

I think the inherent proposition for start-ups, whether in food or technology is there is an enormous amount of risk because the failure rates for start-ups is very high, largely because capital costs are so high.

Initiatives such as the Future Food Day conference and planned infrastructure tailored for the food industry’s start up market, go a long way to addressing this concern which will, consequently, help fuel future food innovation and disruption and aptly show the appetite for innovation which exists in that space.

Responding to your market

9dorf Chicken Farm in Brisbane's Lockyer Valley

I have always been in awe of the food culture in Australia and I think part of that is because of the close proximity of producers to farm purveyors and the end consumer, which is a point of strong differentiation to most competitors. In many other places, there are enormous distances to be traversed between the farm and the factory to the consumer; this does not seem to be the case so much in South East Queensland.

I also see Brisbane and the South East as having a lot to offer from a food innovation perspective which I haven’t seen elsewhere.

The range of products on the shelves really caters to the needs of the consumer which is actually quite progressive.

In the past 10 years, there has been a paradigm shift in food from where the food consumers could choose from were dictated by manufacturers depending on what they would make and put on shelves. Then it became retailers who were in control of what they would sell.

These days, the consumer is the one steering the ship and driving the trends, dictating what kind of products they wanted to have available and Australia has caught on to this more quickly than some other places.

The reason this is so important now is because of a growing push by consumers to understand where and how their food is being produced.

The proximity of agriculture to producers, retailers and exporters in South East Queensland already demystifies the process because the food is sourced from your own backyard.

Setting the environment

When I look at what is happening in South East Queensland, I see potential to become leaders in food innovation.

For a food business to be successful it needs:

  • Access to beautiful produce
  • An affordable skilled labour force
  • Consumer interest
  • Strong point of difference
  • Brand strength
  • Growth potential
  • A space to reach its market (social media)

For start-ups to be successful, they need these basics:

  • Access to capital
  • A business-friendly environment (such as tax incentives)
  • A friendly regulatory environment
  • Retail opportunity
  • Space for small brands to break though (not major supermarkets)

Looking at South East Queensland, I see all the ingredients needed to produce, innovate and export new food products. The combination of these goes some way to mitigating the inherent risks facing start-ups.

For this reason, I expect I will be spending a lot more time in Australia, and particularly Queensland, enjoying my own journey of discovery of your produce and hopefully, helping to broker some partnerships which bring new taste sensations to the world.