Food Mentoring in Australia

Would you believe that the Australian Food and Grocery (AFG) industry (covering food & beverages, grocery and fresh produce) is Australia’s largest manufacturing sector? Yet launching a successful food business and staying successful in such a tough industry definitely has its challenges. Let’s look at what these are and how to overcome them – how food mentoring can help you improve your chances of success in such a competitive market.

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Food Mentoring: what it is and how it helps

A food mentor is a mentor with specialist experience in the food and grocery market. It’s a person in a position of knowledge, a ‘been there, done that’ person who can share with you their personal experiences and boost your knowledge without the need for another diploma or degree. (A mentor is a person who gives you long-term support through teaching, delivering advice, helping you with decision-making and sharing their years of industry knowledge and experience with you. They will give you immediate access to insights and insider knowledge. They possibly will be saving you from making decisions that could cost you your business in the long run.)

We’ve reviewed the benefits and impacts of small business mentoring in our article on ‘Increasing your chances of survival with Mentoring’. However, for your benefit, we’ll jump to the research. Although not Australian, we see merit in the findings. In 2013 The UPS Store in America conducted research on the small businesses they support and found that a whopping increase in the survival rate of businesses who received mentoring versus those that didn’t. In fact, their results show that double the number of business survived after having a mentor than those that didn’t.

If that doesn’t make you think that having a food mentor can be beneficial, then maybe this can…

Having a mentor is like having a knowledgable teacher/parent working with you. They’re there to:

  • help you feel confident about your decisions
  • share their knowledge and learnings
  • offer a confidential ear when you need one
  • connect you with relevant people in the industry
  • to guide you around the industry challenges that come your way.

Being in a start-up or small business can be a real challenge, one that offers many opportunities for high-stress levels. Having a person there to walk with you through your journey of starting, running and growing your business can help. This will tremendously lift the weight of doing it alone off your shoulders.

Experienced Mentors are the key

Furthermore, a food mentor with the right experience can help you:

  • Plan, monitor and execute your business plan and cash flow
  • Maximise your sales and profitability
  • Share  the food and business skills with you that you need to successfully grow and deliver a food operation
  • Help you close the gap between expectations and reality
  • Work through costing, buying, marketing for your business and more.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, a food mentor with the right experience has been there and can help you navigate the industry. Your mentor can help you create an action plan at any point in your business whether it’s a start-up, growing or experiencing problems.

Understanding the Food & Beverage Market in Australia

According to The Australian Food and Grocery Council’s (AFGC) tenth annual industry snapshot, the food and beverage, grocery, and fresh produce sector is valued at $131 billion and accounts for 36% of Australia’s manufacturing turnover. The AFGC CEO, Ms Tanya Barden, tells us that the sector is facing a touch environment where input costs are rising on everything.


“There is no doubt Australia’s largest manufacturing sector is facing a tough environment where input costs are rising on everything from commodities, particularly caused by the drought, to labour to energy, and six years of retail price deflation continues to cut margins, placing the sector under increasing pressure.”

Why then would you want to have a startup in the food and grocery market? Or try and succeed in such a challenging environment? We believe you shouldn’t give up hope just yet. Simply because the industry locally is experiencing some strain doesn’t mean it’s not an industry worth investing in.

Startup FMCG Mentors Australia Grow Your Small Business

Opportunities in the Food and Grocery Market

Opportunities abound in our food and grocery market. Not just locally, but internationally. Thanks to Tourism Australia, we are increasingly being seen and as food and wine destination globally.

Meanwhile, Austrade’s portrayal of the industry is upbeat, focusing on the ethnic and cultural diversity of Australia. They report that the market exports to over 200 markets internationally.

Why does Austrade believe in the sector? Well, according to Austrade, our AFG sector is:

  • Flexible – we quickly match consumer trends such as health and wellbeing, convenience and value for money.
  • Diverse – from multinationals delivering FMCG products to smaller players who can meet the demand for niche gourmet items.
  • Reputable – Australia has a reputation for clean, natural products with low chemical residues with well-regulated quality and safety along the supply chain.
  • Innovative – both public and private R&D facilities and the rise of food incubators facilitate the development of new and differentiated products, packaging improvements, and even improved production processes.
  • Exceptionally skilled and adaptable – well-established education and training facilities ensure we have an exceptionally skilled and adaptable workforce.
  • Supported by a reliable, world-class transport and distribution infrastructure.

The opportunities in the industry will continue to rely on our ability to be innovative with our product development, manufacturing, packaging, and marketing efforts. To beat the slump we need to be smarter in the way we work. This is where food mentoring can make a big difference.

Changing dynamics and trends

Before we look at food mentoring, let’s quickly brush over the changes we’re seeing in the Australian Food and Grocery market…

It’s all about health

Australians (and people globally) are becoming increasingly concerned with their health. We’re also experiencing a rise in non-communicable diseases. Diabetes and obesity are of great concern in Australia as they are slowly rising to epidemic proportions with diabetes tripling in the last 25 years. Additionally, obesity increasing by 19% over the last 20 years (that’s almost 2 in 3 of Australian adults struggling with obesity).

The rise of plant-based diets

Alongside this is the growing trend of plant-based diets and foods. Now with their own industry associations helping to grow knowledge and awareness of how plant-based products can replace dairy and meat (both red and white varieties), the plant-based industry is starting to experience good growth. This is assisted by the research and technology that is being developed to help plant-based foods to taste just as good as their animal counterparts (if not better).

A sustainable future

Consumers are becoming more and more interested in sustainability. Our youth want to know there will still be a world with animals and wildlife for them when they grow old. People want to know where their food comes from, whether it’s organically produced, and whether the farmers are using humane practices.

The impact of reality TV

Reality TV is having an impact on our consumers as well. Programs like My Kitchen Rules and MasterChef are helping change the perception of food in Australia. It also shows how the industry is using reality TV to help with their integrated marketing efforts. Coles certainly goes a long way throughout MasterChef to change perceptions of its food variety and quality.

The rise of online shopping and home deliveries

From simple groceries delivered to your door by Coles or Woolworths to the emergence of companies like Uber Eats who will deliver your favourite gourmet dishes to your door. Even Amazon is now allowing online shopping of food and groceries. It has never been easier to simply sit on your couch and order anything you want without having to step outside your door to buy, pay or fetch!

The impact of social media

Social Media is fuelling the foodie culture worldwide. Instagrammable food can be seen in many an Instagram feed. Trending hashtags help highlight different and new food trends, creating an environment where trends can develop overnight. It’s a tool that can help or hinder businesses at the touch of a keypad.

Each of these trends can offer opportunities within the food and grocery industry. Staying ahead of the curve and identifying the next trend so you can be ahead of the wave and ride it, rather than catch the end of it, is where your success lies. However, running a business and knowing how to make great food are chalk and cheese. They require infinitely different skillsets. As a lover of food that sees a business opportunity, you are not guaranteed success. Success comes in getting all the factors right – both with your product (or service) and the business end of things. This is where a food mentor comes in. This is where you start to get ahead of the pack.

Startup FMCG offers Startup, FMCG and small business mentoring as part of our service. If you’d like to know more or meet the founder, Anthony Harb, fill in our contact form. He is a specialist mentor in Fast Moving Consumer Goods with 30 years experience and multiple product launches with products achieving more than $100 million turnover .