There will be upheaval with climate change in agriculture, but we have to learn from the past as well, Glenisk director Ger Cleary has said.
He told this week’s Agricultural Science Association (ASA) conference that 25 to 30 years ago, we all re-used stuff.
“We left our milk bottles out for the milkman to collect, we had money back on our bottles.
"We all bought into that and that’s what we were used to. But we lost that particular way of thinking as well. We did it before, so we should be able to do it again.”
Cleary said it was a natural step for Glenisk to go into organics because that was how it perceived the market was going.
“It’s something that probably wasn’t fashionable at the time, but companies like ourselves, we made it fashionable because we found that we brought our product to the market maybe before the consumer knew they wanted it.
“Timing worked for us as well and we grew the organic name over the last 20 years as well because of that. We continue to improve now and innovate. I suppose we look at innovation now in two [ways].
“One would be new product development, which is we produce products from scratch. We don’t actually really know…until we bring it to the supermarket shelf and the consumer buys it, will they buy it once or will they repeat purchase.
You can see that it’s totally changed in terms of functionality
“The other element of product innovation that we would look at is we have about 108 different types of product out there; everything from our breadwinner which is a plain, natural 500g [yoghurt] all the way down in size to our baby yoghurts as well.
“Those products, if you put one up beside the other, compared to what it was 10 or 12 years ago, you can see that it’s totally changed in terms of functionality, packaging as well, but still has the same Glenisk quality in it as well.
“We innovate with our existing lines and with new product development as well,” he said.
Looking at the bigger picture, Cleary said Glenisk doesn’t want to be one of the only producers of organic produce.
“We would prefer to see it become more mainstream. We think Ireland is in a great position as well, with its credentials, to exploit that and grow with the market.
“If we need to look at environmental change, reduce carbon footprint, we need to look at all aspects of it.
"We believe that organic is a way of life that was practised in the past back 50 to 70 years ago, but it was one of these many things that we lost as we moved into the second half of the 20th century as well.
“All ideas that are in front of us, they don’t need to be new ideas, they can be things that we learned from the past and organic is one of them that we did in the past as well.
“It can be brought forward in a modern way that it can feed the larger population that we are living with now as well,” he said.