I think we all understand by now that sustainability is becoming an increasingly critical issue for the food and beverage industry. The recent Worldview 2017 conference focused on the future of food and beverage. As Global Sector Strategist--Beverages for Rabobank, it was my pleasure to present on the trends and challenges that Rabobank sees the industry facing, and to offer some suggestions for what companies can do about them.

Financing for the Future

Rabobank Group is a global financial services leader with more than $750 million in assets, and a strong commitment to its core mission: to create customer value. Rabobank provides wholesale and retail banking, leasing, and real estate services in more than 40 countries worldwide. In the Americas, Rabobank is a premier bank of the food, agribusiness and beverage industry, providing sector expertise, strategic counsel and tailored financial solutions to clients across the entire food value chain. We know that sustainability and innovation are critical in promoting a thriving food and ag industry that will feed growing global populations for years to come. The beverage sector presents an inherent opportunity to enhance supply chain sustainability, and Rabobank partners with leading beverage companies on these issues.

To better serve Rabobank’s numerous food and beverage clients (including 18 of the top 25 beverage companies in the world), we have a research team that is dedicated to analyzing issues of strategic importance to our clients, such as changes in market context, supply chain disruptions, and emerging opportunities. In our work, we talk to C-suite executives all the time, and we are definitely seeing sustainability become a top-of-mind issue for many clients. The food and beverage industries in particular, are ahead of the curve in pursuing sustainability because it is so meaningful to the industry and so crucial to production and operations.

So what challenges exactly are we seeing on the horizon? Some of the biggest disruptions include climate change with accompanying supply chain impacts, and changing consumer expectations leading to greater reputational risk. The bigger question, perhaps, is how organizations can plan ahead and proactively address these challenges.

Modeling a Multi-Faceted Approach

Rabobank employs a multi-pronged strategy for engaging with companies in the challenges and issues facing agribusiness. Alongside our work in research, forecasting, and finance, Rabobank is also working to play an active role in forging the future of the industry. One initiative we are passionate about is Banking for Food, focused on sustainably meeting the needs of the planet’s growing population, aiming to make food more available, accessible, and nutritious by 2050. Global food security will only become more important in the future, so we’re providing financing and support to enable farmers to grow more efficiently, optimizing food chains, participating in the public conversation, and contributing financing toward innovation with programs like FoodBytes!. FoodBytes! is our flagship pitch, competition-meets-networking event which brings together the game-changing startups, investors and industry leaders that are pioneering a better future.

We also strive to provide clients with access to knowledge and networks they may not otherwise get. This includes tailored advisory services, financial and technical assistance in support of the complete value chain, leveraging global memberships such as Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBSCD), and Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB). We offer customized tools and benchmarks to help clients really understand their sustainability performance in relation to their peers. By working to offer in-depth coverage and expertise across the value chain, from farming to trade and export, all the way to processing and retail, we are able to see the fullest possible picture of the industry landscape and then pass those insights on to our clients.

Make it Work for You

Traditional food and beverage companies can take a similar holistic view of the challenges and opportunities the current situation has to offer, then create a unique approach to adaptation and innovation, tailored to their organization. Putting your metaphorical eggs in multiple strategic “baskets” offers the chance to play to your strengths and be part of the evolving landscape, rather than passively waiting for change to come to you at your own risk.

For more sustainability insights from Rabobank read here and here, or reach out to contact Stephanie Potter, Vice President of Sustainable Business Development. Full slides from Stephen’s WorldView presentation are available here.

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About the Author

Stephen Rannekleiv
Stephen Rannekleiv
Global Sector Strategist--Beverages for Rabobank

Stephen Rannekleiv is the Global Sector Strategist--Beverages for Rabobank, working to support the bank’s efforts in the beverage sector and further strengthen Rabobank’s long-standing relationships with major beverage clients around the world. He leads the beverage research team and provides colleagues involved in the beverage industry with thought-provoking ideas, analytics, and insights.