Australian Food and Grocery Council
Tanya Barden is the Chief Executive Officer at the Australian Food and Grocery Council, which is Australia’s peak industry body representing food, beverage and grocery manufacturers. Tanya brings tremendous experience and proven success at senior executive levels in both the public and private sectors, including work on competition policy and regulation, energy, telecommunications and Commonwealth-State financial relations. Tanya also gained commercial experience running her own on line organic home delivery business. Previously the AFGC Director of Economics, Trade and Sustainability, Tanya has strong experience with the $126 billion food and grocery sector and led the secretariat’s work on a range of issues relating to international trade and the competitiveness and environmental sustainability of the industry.
How has your experience in the fields of online retail food and competition policy and regulation prepared you for your current position?
The food industry is one that I have long had an interest in and passion for, so running my own food business gave me the opportunity to feel that sense of purpose in providing the essentials of everyday life. It has been useful in my current role as it has helped me understand supplier-customer relationships and the challenges of running a small business as well as other life skills like thinking outside the box and problem solving.
What is AFGC’s strategic vision?
AFGC’s vision is for a thriving, sustainable and trusted food and grocery supply industry, with a strong Australian manufacturing base. That breadth means that there are a lot of issues we work on both as an advocate for the industry and as a service provider to our members.
What are the most pressing challenges AFGC faces right now?
The industry is facing some real headwinds with cost pressures on a number of fronts including energy prices, labour, packaging, transport and imported inputs. This is at a time of intense competition within a highly concentrated retail sector, which has resulted in seven years of retail price deflation. These factors combined have put a squeeze on the profit margins and investment decisions in food and grocery manufacturing. In addition, there are increased expectations of the industry’s role in relation to issues such as obesity and waste as well as providing more transparency on everything to do with their products – what is in them, where and how they are made and the business practices.
Looking to the future, what industry trends are you keeping an eye on?
We are obviously keen to see more competition in the Australian retail sector, so we will be interested to see the progress of Amazon and other new entrant retailers, such as Kaufland. We are also keeping an eye on trends that disrupt food and grocery manufacturing models such as the changing demands of a younger generation of digitally connected consumers as well as changes in channels to consumers.
Could you tell us more about success of your recent Future Leaders Forum?
We’ve had fantastic feedback from our recent Future Leaders Forum, which was attended by high potential staff across a range of different roles. The day included expert presentations and CEO panels on leadership, CSR and digital disruption followed by industry mentors leading table discussions on these issues from a leadership perspective.
What do you enjoy the most about your current role?
I love the fact that I represent a sector that is such an important contributor to people’s everyday lives as well as the economy and communities. The enormous variety of issues that we work on – from food safety to nutrition to retail supplier relationships to international trade and sustainability – is at times challenging to juggle, but is what makes the job endlessly fascinating and rewarding.
Thank you Tanya for taking the time to share your thoughts with us today.