Fresh perspectives on food supply + sustainability at Woolworths NZ
Food & Fibre
Food & Fibre

Fresh perspectives on food supply + sustainability at Woolworths NZ

Ryan McMullen, General Manager of Fruit and Vegetables at Woolworths New Zealand, delves into the company's innovative strategies within the agricultural sector, touching on topics from nurturing future leaders to climate resilience and the importance of a robust value chain. 

One of the key talking points was Woolworths New Zealand's new sponsorship of the FMG Young Farmer of the Year contest. McMullen expresses pride in backing the event, which aligns with their broader commitment to supporting farmers. 

"We've got hundreds of direct relationships with farmers... so it's quite a good link for us to support this organisation and support these events to sort of demonstrate our links and our direct relationships." 

Another significant discussion centres around Woolworths' response to extreme weather events, such as Cyclone Gabrielle, and their implications for the agricultural supply chain. 

McMullen noted the long-term effects of such events, mentioning a conversation with the LeaderBrand team in Gisborne who were "still talking about the impacts on the land on the ground they're working and how it's affecting their current planting seasons." 

McMullen also addresses concerns about the fairness of supermarket practices toward farmers, assuring that robust negotiations were a part of maintaining good relationships and ensuring that "our growers are getting an outcome that suits their needs and their business as well." 

He insists on the importance of trust, stating, "It's no good for us if growers and farmers can't make money or can't run their business." 

Finally, McMullen sheds light on the value chain focus at Woolworths New Zealand. He underscored the ongoing efforts to work closely with growers, optimise distribution systems, and ensure top-quality produce reaches customers. 

He encapsulates the challenge by saying, "It's actually really challenging end to end to maximise that, so that's our focus." 

In closing, McMullen provides an optimistic outlook on the produce supply for 2024 despite acknowledging the existing cost of living crisis. 

He reinforces Woolworths' dedication to delivering high-quality food to New Zealanders and moving the fruit and vegetable industry forward. 

Overall, the conversation with Ryan McMullen offers valuable insights into Woolworths New Zealand's approach to agriculture, emphasising its proactive role in supporting the industry's growth and resilience.

Listen to the full chat between Ryan McMullen and Dominic George above.

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