Scholar to tap into global food network

Last updated 05:00 11/12/2013
Lucy Cruickshank is one of this year’s Nuffield scholars.
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RESEARCH PLANS: Lucy Cruickshank is one of this year’s Nuffield scholars.

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Nuffield scholar Lucy Cruickshank will spend six weeks travelling the world to find out how other countries earn a premium for their food.

Ms Cruickshank, originally from Invercargill, owns and operates the Wairarapa sales and marketing company Innov8 Aotearoa. Her business helps New Zealand companies promote and sell food and beverages to the world.

The $40,000 Nuffield scholarship will enable her to extend her networks and to travel and study.

"This is an opportunity to ... see some of the leading and cutting-edge agricultural businesses and trends," she says.

For six weeks in June and July, she and eight other people - Marlborough garlic grower John Murphy, five Australians, a Briton and one from Ireland - will travel through India, Qatar, Ukraine, France and the United States.

Added to this will be at least 10 weeks of travel to work on her research project on how to get premiums for niche food.

She wants to bring back best-practice models, other countries' experiences and to understand what discerning shoppers want from premium New Zealand products.

"It is important that our producers are getting premiums and I want to understand how other countries and producers are doing it."

Another part of the scholarship is the opportunity to tap into some of the best entrepreneurial minds in New Zealand. "I am really excited that we are allocated an industry mentor and also a coach," she says.

Her mentor is John Brackenridge, chief executive of New Zealand Merino Company.

"He is one of New Zealand's leading marketers. He has added value to every part of the New Zealand merino, from the wool to the Silere lamb, to the Kura leather for luxury goods, lanolin oil and an extract from the horn of the merino."

A bonus of the programme is that once people become Nuffield scholars, they have access to all the other Nuffield scholars around the world.

"It's a big network with people who all have a vision of seeing transformation in the agri-sector. I am at the market end and I have to understand every part of the channel to be able to add the most value to my part.

"Coming from the rural roots of Southland - working in the yards, as a rousie at shearing time, planting swedes for stock fodder, cooking for the shearers. I love cooking - I am a foodie - and it helps that I can talk with passion about the food and the original cuisine we have in this country."

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Next year will be "full on", she says. "I still have to pinch myself. I am absolutely thrilled to be able to take the time out from my business. I have some extremely supportive clients."

She began her career in 2002 working for Tohu Wines and then for the parent company Wakatu, rising to be marketing manager.

Maori-owned Wakatu and Tohu were pioneers in indigenous branding in New Zealand and one of the projects she worked on was developing the family brand Kono (food basket).

When she decided it was time to do her OE, Wakatu asked her to be its Europe and British-based representative in London, marketing wine and mussel products.

"I had 18 months on the ground learning the international business. I was my own boss, I reported to New Zealand but it was just me up against the world."

In London she was approached by Wairarapa manuka honey marketer Denis Watson. She returned to New Zealand to learn about the industry and to promote manuka honey internationally.

Since then she has set up businesses of her own, including Pure Aotearoa which she sold to a company in Christchurch. Another, Pure Wairarapa, was developed to work with small operators and then sold to a woman who wanted to set up a food database in the Wairarapa.

The other is Innov8 Aotearoa, which she has been developing for the past two years.

"I wanted to get back into the international space and to work with companies across Aotearoa. For the last two years, I've worked with 40 small and medium- sized enterprises in the food and beverage space."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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