Students place in international food marketing competition

Euphemia Tan (L), Will Robertson, Alexandra Tomkins and Kazi Talaska

How would you use your skills to tackle the challenges a Florida vegetable supplier faces due to COVID-19? Well, four Massey University students successfully found a way earning them second place in the International Food Marketing Challenge held online recently. 

Alexandra Tomkins, Euphemia Tan, Kazi Talaska and Will Robertson took part in the student challenge – an annual competition run by the Food Distribution Research Society. This year the challenge was originally scheduled to be held in Texas, where universities from around the world were invited to come together to meet with their chosen client to carry out the task at hand. The global pandemic meant the challenge went ahead virtually.

The team were given a hypothetical case study that involved working with a client from Florida who experienced disruptions to their vegetable supply chain due to COVID-19. 

They and the other contestants were asked to identify external and internal issues affecting the businesses. They had three weeks to come up with strategies to help them recover from the challenges.

Miss Tomkins says they discussed using the company’s fleet trucks to load up with fresh vegetables and drive around communities and neighbourhoods to sell from the trucks in the same way ice cream trucks drive around neighbourhood streets and sell to locals. They developed a budget and evaluation and presented their marketing plan to a panel of judges in a 10-minute video, which included PowerPoint slides with graphics. 

All four are members of the Massey Horticulture Society and through that they were shoulder-tapped by former Massey staff member, Emma Boase, who now works for Horticulture New Zealand. She encouraged them to participate in the competition.

Miss Boase had previously competed in the competition and knowing it was still going ahead virtually she thought it would be a great opportunity for New Zealand students to get involved.  

 She said the team was very busy with exams at the time, so they decided to meet on campus one weekend and complete it all within 48 hours and very little sleep. 

Miss Tomkins, who is in her final year of studying a Bachelor of Agri Commerce majoring in International Agri Business and minoring in Horticulture, says it was “cool” to see how relevant and helpful the material they have studied at Massey was when applying it to the challenge.  

“There’s only so much you can learn writing an assignment or doing a group presentation in the classroom, but it’s these sorts of things that really do help stretch your learning beyond what you’re doing in your courses.”  

She says they were hoping for the best but did not expect to get a placing, especially being up against very prestigious universities. 

“It’s awesome to see that  New Zealand  universities are competitive internationally in the primary industries and we’re developing students and future leaders of high calibre globally.” 

Miss Boase agrees, saying it is encouraging to see Massey’s ag commerce and horticulture science students perform at a global level. 

“For the horticulture industry, supporting these students is important for us to ensure we have capable professionals who can problem-solve and think on their feet while working in teams. It’s a really good sign for us that the universities are doing something well, educating these people coming through.”  

She says the horticulture industry has been hit hard due to COVID, especially when it comes to labour. 

“Having students who understand what a worst-case scenario is and how you can problem solve your way out of it rather than sit there and say it’s a ‘write off’ is important.” 

Miss Boase says it is also important for these students to get an understanding of the industry in today’s current climate overseas but also in New Zealand. 

She says if the competition goes ahead next year and students are able to travel then they would provide an application process to selected students to represent their university. 

Miss Tomkins recommends future students to “put your name out there and apply for these opportunities and challenges as they grow your experience and compliment the university work you do.”

The team has earned a $750 USD prize for being runner up.



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