The pandemic exposed the food industry’s lack of resilience in the American and international food supply chains. It triggered panic buying, resulting in wasted food as well as food shortages worldwide. No one in the industry was spared. According to studies, as of March 12, 2020, 86% of industry members — from grower-shippers through retailers — reported either “some effect” or “significant effect” on their operations.
Dr. Timothy Richards is a professor in the Morrison School of Agribusiness at W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University (ASU). He has studied the pandemic’s impact on the food and vegetable industry, overall food supply chains, the loss of food service channels, the long-term implications of the market becoming more digital, among other topical issues. And what did he find? That regardless of the world’s steady return to normalcy, the need for a more robust agribusiness system will remain.
Agribusiness professionals are at the forefront of developing and implementing better industry practices. Currently, the field accounts for over 50% of the global economy, employing 25% of Americans that bring food from the farm to the global table. The food industry itself employs one in six people across the country.
On a global scale, agribusiness is an industry with growing opportunities. The World Bank notes that population growth, changing appetites, and rising food demand are fueling growth in the food and agriculture sector.
The Morrison School of Agribusiness at ASU — where Professor Richards educates — has made it its mission to prepare students to launch exciting careers in one of the most essential sectors of the global economy.
Their undergraduate programmes feature experiential learning and a core business curriculum. This helps students with a genuine interest in the food industry to succeed in any food-related job or enterprise.
While there are opportunities in the food sector, higher education can provide immediate value to students looking to carve themselves successful careers in the field. “So many people in the food industry work their way up,” says Professor Mark Manfredo of the Morrison School of Agribusiness. “They start out young and work either in a food retail, restaurant or food service establishment.”
Upon progressing into management positions in these establishments, however, it becomes challenging to grow without the right qualification that will equip them with knowledge and skills needed to excel in their jobs and take their careers to the next level.
The BA Food Industry Management programme was designed to improve students’ chances of success. It enables students to gain the skills and experience needed to pursue a career in purchasing and procurement, food supply chain management, wholesale and distribution, logistics, commodity trading and export, and food marketing.
This is done by exposing students to a wide range of comprehensive courses, including Commodity Futures and Options Markets, Food Advertising and Promotion, Food Product Innovation and Development, Food Retailing, Food Supply Networks, Fundamentals of Finance, Global Supply Operations, International Management and Agribusiness, Introduction to Agribusiness, Marketing and Business Performance, Organisation and Management Leadership, and Strategic Pricing in Food Markets.
In speaking about the programme, Associate Professor Renee Hughner explains that Agribusiness provides students with a competitive advantage. “Our students graduate with strong knowledge of business fundamentals – they take their core business classes in marketing, management, economics, finance, and accounting and build on those foundations in the context of food.”
“The perishability of food presents new challenges regarding supply chain logistics; the unpredictability of weather affects commodity prices and goods sold; labor shortages in the industry provide unique management challenges; and produce and fresh foods present opportunities to transform commodities into trusted brands. These are just a few of the types of issues agribusiness students are prepared to face.” She adds.
The programme’s online option makes it possible for students to learn independently and at their own pace. Every student benefits from gaining access to the same resources. They receive expert guidance from the same faculty members conducting classes and supporting students on-campus.
“We’re very passionate about the food industry,” says Professor Manfredo. “All of us have chosen our path of research because we truly have a genuine interest in the food industry. I think that’s really a benefit for the student that’s going to be taking our courses.”
Learning from faculty who have their finger on the pulse in the food industry has benefited the School’s students, including BA Food Industry Management alumni Shannon Anderson. His newfound knowledge and skills helped him land the role of private label manager for Sprouts Farmer Market. Today, he is a VP for Sales and Marketing at Ice Box Foods.
He credits his success to his ASU degree, which taught him the four P’s of marketing: product, price, placement, and promotion.
“I select the product, I work on pricing strategies, I work on placement — how to get the product to the consumer in the best possible way — and I work on promotional planning,” he shares. “That’s basically, in a nutshell, what my job is; and I learned all of that on the first day at ASU — and it’s something I’m gonna use for the rest of my life.”