Poultry producers need to be focused on innovation for growth, but they also need to examine their core business and how it relates to those opportunities as they develop those strategies. That advice was given by Professor Damien McLoughlin, UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, Ireland, to a group of poultry producers from around the world at the annual Alltech breakfast during the International Production & Processing Expo in Atlanta.

McLoughlin used the example of a poultry producer in Pakistan that is innovating ahead of the curve. "I visited a company in 2011 that had best slaughter facility in any industry in anywhere in the world." he said. "It was the cleanest, most automated, most effective plant I've ever seen to produce processed chicken." What is notable is that in Pakistan, processed chicken is only 2 percent of the market, while the rest is wet. No one knows for sure when the Pakistan market will move from wet to processed chicken, but McLoughlin is confident that will happen. "Those guys are ready when it happens. They are ready to take advantage of that opportunity before it has even happened. That is strategic waiting. If you are innovating for an existing opportunity, you are too late."

A member of the audience asked how companies producing eggs can innovate, since the questioner saw eggs as a commodity product. McLoughlin said eggs don't need to be differentiated but defended. "The biggest problem with eggs is people believe they are unhealthy," he said. While that is a problem for the industry overall, companies can use that to their advantage by telling the story that their brand offers health benefits. Egg brands that are promoting their increased health benefits are commanding premium prices in many markets.

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McLoughlin challenged the audience to change their thinking about their core businesses. "You aren't in the poultry business; you are in the food business. Poultry production is your core, but food is your business, if you define your business that way as you move ahead."

McLoughlin told the audience there are four key things they have to pay attention to expand their businesses:

  1. You have to have a strong, well-disciplined core business with leadership in that core market.
  2. You need to pursue the right growth opportunities and avoid the wrong ones.
  3. You must be the best at following your customer.
  4. You have to develop repeatable business models.

He gave examples of how world-leading consumer companies have effectively followed those four rules and succeeded. He encouraged the audience to apply them to their own growth plans.