A senior executive at food giant Cargill has said international food manufacturers should innovate more effectively to seize new markets, especially in the developing world.

Cargill executive vice president Frank van Lierde was speaking at the first seminar of an event hosted by the CIAA in Brussels yesterday (18 November), which debated the potential riches that could be earned by exports to emerging markets. 

Van Lierde said middle-class consumers in emerging markets were increasingly sophisticated. “There’s a need for new food ingredients that genuinely promote health, and the industry should be formulating better-tasting recipes,” he said.

The rise of the emerging markets means global food production will have to rise to meet demand. Speakers argued that output would have to rise by 70% and delegates mulled how Europe’s food and drink industry could expand to help. 

Several speakers referred to the 2007–2008 world food crisis, when commodity prices soared, which left at least 200m children malnourished, as being an example of unfulfilled demand. 

“Fighting hunger will improve profits and providing food security is a way out of poverty,” the World Food Programme’s Monica Marshall said. She said European companies needed to do better in creating products and distribution networks able to feed such hungry consumers. “Innovation in food production does not need to be expensive,” she argued. “European producers are lagging a bit behind rivals in other parts of the world.”

Cargill’s van Lierde added: “Farmers can produce more. We know that. But if producer prices rise or become volatile, this only shows the industry needs to be even more efficient [to] protect the consumer from the effect of rises.”