Posted 28 March 2011
The Harper Forum welcomed John Shropshire, CEO of G’s Marketing this week, to talk about marketing and business decisions required in the industry.
Mr Shropshire began with an introduction to the family company, which began in 1961 with his father Guy Shropshire.
Farming of fresh produce on the Fens (a region in East England) has grown into a much wider and diverse operation than could have been imagined and G’s’ aim then, and also now, is to produce ‘wholesome, quality fresh produce that delights their customers’.
It was described to the Forum that the ‘make-up’ of the business is still very family fronted, however G’s Growers, G’s Marketing, etc all have their own separate entities and must be able to function alone and to safeguard each sector.
Today, the business includes 19 farmers, more than 10,000 hectares and employs 4,000 people, half of which are seasonal staff. Operations spread across Europe, with enterprises in South East Spain and the Czech Republic.
The combination of these enterprises has allowed a diverse range of products to be sampled and the maintenance of an all year round production cycle. Mr Shropshire said that he felt this was vital to the survival of any fresh produce producer, because without this supply in either winter or summer, the grower would lose their market position.
Mr Shropshire continued, by referring to the book ‘Good to Great’. Farmers understand the power of the supermarket, but at this stage, a buyer is still a buyer. As G’s is not a dedicated producer for a set chain of stores, they are vulnerable to the ‘high street’ changes.
They are also challenged by the changing of world currencies, in particular, the strength of the pound to the euro, due to their businesses in both currencies and the exchange rate in accordance to the profit levels of their farmers.
In terms of environmental work, the group has a diverse portfolio. In Spain they are investing in methods of desalinisation while in the Czech Republic they are looking at CHC development.
In the UK, one of the home farms has been awarded a leading environmental award on several occasions due to the practices they enforce. This, the speaker felt, was an important representation of how important they feel the environment is to the agricultural and British industry.
To conclude, Mr Shropshire drew on these points -
· Businesses need to grow, at 4% they will just stand still,
· Sustainability will become more of a driver,
· Complacency is the biggest enemy,
· G’s will remain a family business and a ‘business to be proud of’.