You insist IGD is not a lobby organisation. Yet, during the past 18 months, it has become far more influential across the trade and within the corridors of power in Whitehall. Surely you can't keep denying the obvious? We're not a lobby organisation, but there are clear messages I want to project about IGD and its role. Our strength is that we're impartial. So I want people to come to us for a balanced perspective based on good research, integrity, and with very little spin. The crown jewels of IGD are knowledge, research, information and balanced perspective. We have been working hard to deliver this during the past 18 months and, towards the end of last year, most of that came together. But was it really coincidence that the full thrust of your efforts appeared soon after New Labour came to power? It's much broader than just talking to government. I'm passionate about this industry. There are elements within it which are world class, and which some people seem to have forgotten. The food industry touches everybody's lives, every day. But because it has been focused on getting on with the job it hasn't been on the front foot in terms of telling its story to schools, universities, colleges, the media or the government. We have been trying to do an education job, but we've only just started. If we want to attract the best people into our industry, we must make sure we project the message in schools, colleges and universities. We also need to ensure consumers, the media, civil servants and government are better informed about who we are. So given those objectives, do you believe IGD has finally shaken off a once heard view that it was merely the trade's branch of academia ­ perhaps even a rather stuffy organisation ? I don't think our name, when we used the full title ­ Institute of Grocery Distribution ­ helped in that direction. But over a period, as IGD, we have started to reinvent ourselves. While we have always had strong credentials, the name was not helpful when we were trying to communicate and work with new audiences. But it takes time for people to perceive there's been change. I'm conscious the success of IGD depends on doing the right things. It's about leadership and also about doing the right things well. To be successful you have to know and understand your customers which, in our case, are our membership. It's absolutely key that we stay close to the issues, understand the challenges members face in their businesses and understand the challenges across the food chain. If we are not in touch with all that we will be remote and we will not be successful. One thing I have tried to do at IGD, and the team have been incredibly supportive, is respond to the industry's agenda rather than IGD having its own agenda. What about the discredited Rip-off Britain campaign? Can IGD claim credit for helping dispel some of the sensational perceptions of politicians and media about grocery? We were approached by the Competition Commission to make representations. We did not do so because I didn't feel that was right and appropriate for an organisation like us. However, the Commission looked at our research before, quite separately, we were called to the Commission to give information on certain aspects of the inquiry. I was happy to share with them, and subsequently with the DTI, the huge tranche of consumer research we had done in the previous autumn. This showed that the UK consumer is in a very different shopping scenario from the consumer abroad. They have a different value set. Retailing and manufacturing is, after all, a response to culture. The Commission was able to see from our research, when benchmarked against its own, that the consumer is, generally speaking, driven by value. This can mean a host of different attributes which aren't necessarily just about price. It was important to get across the message that the UK market is more advanced than a number of others worldwide, that it is being driven by our consumers,and that we are lucky enough to have an industry that's been responsive to those consumers. So you were influential in the Competition Commission's early assessments of the sector? I'm pleased we were able to draw on our understanding of markets, whether it be the UK or abroad. I believe we are able to give health warnings, if you like. When you look at data, it's important to make sure you are measuring like for like. Did the ferocity of the media's Rip-off Britain campaigns against grocery surprise you? It surprised me because I don't believe that, where our sector is concerned, the allegations are true. As I have said before, we are a successful industry, focused on getting the job done, so we were probably on the back foot when the media campaign started. Do you see the food and drink industry always being in the critical focus of the media? Inevitably. We employ three and a half million people and we are a huge contributor to GDP, but most importantly we touch everybody's lives every day. If it isn't Rip-off Britain it will be another issue, simply because of who we are, and the nature, if you like, of the beast. We must ensure that, as an industry, we are always on the front foot. The Competition Commission's interim report talked about small suppliers and their relationships with the major high street retailers. Should IGD be involved in that debate, either as an influencing factor or on a more direct basis? This is a time of enormous change in the industry. The market today is not the one that the Competition Commission experienced when it started its investigation. It will continue to evolve and change, and I guess because of competitive pressures we will be there to maintain its balanced perspective, and be the place where industry can come together to resolve issues, to identify opportunities and to develop and share best practice. IGD is neutral territory ­ a safe area. It's important for us to be a strong organisation if there is noise. And you would expect there to be noise at a time when it is very, very competitive. It's not for IGD to dictate, or indeed shape, the actual relationship between individual manufacturers and retailers. If we get sucked into that we are in danger of selling the family silver. But I do think IGD should continue to drive opportunities to do things better in our industry. IGD has worked closely with MAFF and agriculture minister Nick Brown in recent months. You've placed great importance on Nick's walks around the food chain, yet some media people have dismissed his actions as PR stunts. Nick Brown is prepared to listen. He wants to go out and about in the industry and understand the way it works. He has clearly had a very challenging time, but he has been a strong supporter of IGD and we really have felt his presence. I don't think it's fair to describe his tours as PR stunts. They arose out of meetings of Nick's Food Chain Group, of which I am a member. The only way to understand the chain is to get out there and see it. Do that and you soon realise it's much more of a powerful thing than could simply be described by IGD or indeed anyone else. Nick has viewed it right from raw material through to the final product at point of sale. But this is ongoing. Junior minister Joyce Quin has also walked the chain, as has a group of 10 Labour MPs. And we are trying to give as many companies as possible the opportunity to participate. How important do you regard your own profile as chief executive? Before your recent Global Retailing conference, for example, you were on radio nine times. Is this public exposure an important new role for you? I believe IGD should be higher profile.We must be close to the industry. But you have to choose your time carefully when raising your head above the parapet. I felt very strongly there was no point in doing that unless I had got the right people around me within IGD, and that we had a very strong basis on which to speak. The team has worked very hard over the last few years to raise the level of the game, to raise the level of analysis and to raise the level of integrity. We were camera shy and, yes, we were media shy. I've never been into flim flam and window dressing. If we're to speak, we need to do it on a sound basis in areas where we have credibility. So we have been strengthening our profile because we have built all those things. We now want to share some of the positive findings from our research with the media in addition to some of the very positive and proactive things this industry is doing. How closely do you work with the other main trade associations? We have developed a strong relationship with the Food and Drink Federation and and the British Retail Consortium. That has been very important and people have realised that IGD isn't looking to play in other people's backyards. We offer complementary things to FDF and BRC. If nothing else, we should all be aware of what each other is doing and speak with a common voice for the industry. I am not into duplication of effort. Given the trend towards things global, do you see your international influence growing, perhaps across the Channel first? We're ready to branch out in terms of our research programme and our overall perspective. If we look at the IGD membership, many of the manufacturers already have a European perspective and are striving for a global one. We can't bury our heads in the sand and say this is not relevant. Other people, whether their company is truly European or international, source globally. So there are challenges and gaps in knowledge and understanding where I think IGD could usefully perform a role. We kicked off the year with a conference with FFB on global retailing. We've launched a new research report and we are trying to beef up our European market analysis. But it's much more than that. It's about injecting within the culture of IGD a broader perspective in everything we do. So if, for example, we are looking at ECR in the UK, we need to be aware of what's happening elsewhere in the world. If we are doing the Food Project, where we have been very supportive of the UK infrastructure in terms of raw material, we need to have a good understanding of what other countries are doing. So will IGD soon be recruiting new members from France, Germany and Italy? Some of our current members have offices in Europe and they have invited me to go and talk to them about IGD. That is because they don't want to get the information second hand from the UK office. They actually want to get it direct from IGD. In the first instance we will see some of our work become relevant in those European offices and perhaps even beyond. There are no directly comparable bodies in Europe to IGD and that, again, highlights our unique selling points to the supply chain. Are there any areas of food where you feel you could gain a greater membership for IGD? GRO|25/3/00 |27 |TGI |The Greenery International works to keep growers How many will remain at TGI? May 31 is crunch time for The Greenery International, according to executives of this Dutch marketing organisation. This is the date when growers have the opportunity, as they do every year, to decide whether to remain members. Since TGI replaced the Central Bureau of Dutch Auctions to create a direct marketing organisation supplying European multiples with long-term fixed prices, many growers became disenchanted and left. As a result last season saw a noticeable reduction in overall value, although the UK did well, where shipments rose from 164,00 tonnes to 186,000 tonnes. It is still too early to predict what will happen this year, but the strong pound should continue to attract imports. Jan van Staalduinen, chairman of TGI owner VTN, is convinced that confidence is returning. At present, TGI accounts for about half of total Dutch horticultural production. "The situation has definitely improved, but it is still too early to estimate how many members will stay under our control". Even those members who quit will have to sell their products through TGI until next December. Staalduinen made his comments as he opened the TGI growers' exhibition attended by 50 groups at Blelswijk, designed to show buyers the range and scale of crops and packs available. He added: "Growers have been under great pressure and prices have never been as low as last year. However, it is possible for the best to continue to make profits." He added: "More one to one relationships are developing between grower associations, trading companies and the retailer. Growers are demanding tailormade solutions, and equal treatment is now working less and less. We are investigating opportunities to present our growers with a list of options." {{FRESH PRODUCE }}