A few weeks after her election as President of the International Dairy Federation, Dairy UK Chief Executive Dr Judith Bryans answered a few questions about her vision for IDF in the IDF Newsbrief.
When did you join the dairy industry?
I joined the dairy industry in 2004. I have a scientific background with a PhD in nutrition. My first role in the dairy industry was as a nutrition scientist for The Dairy Council, a science based organization with activities which cover academia and consumers. After a year, I became the Director of that organization.
Over the years, my interests and experiences broadened and in 2013 I became the Chief Executive of Dairy UK, a trade association representing the UK supply chain on public health, technical issues relating to supply chain integrity, environmental and sustainability issues, health and safety, agricultural issues which affect the supply chain (MAP, Johne's disease, antibiotics etc.) and policy.
Why did you choose dairy?
I wanted to move from academia to industry but I didn't want any old job for any old sector. I wanted to be able to talk about products I could be proud of, believe in and speak honestly about from a nutritional perspective. Dairy was the perfect fit.
If you didn't work in the dairy industry, what other sector would you have chosen?
That's a tricky question and I'm not sure I know the answer! As an Irish person I'm tempted to say potatoes just for a laugh but that would be just be a cheeky answer because in truth I don't know.
You've been involved in IDF activities since 2005. What's your best memory so far?
My best memory has got to be the moment Jeremy announced that the GA have voted me in as the new president. I mean – wow – that was amazing. For my colleagues in the IDF community around the world to put their trust in me to take forward an organization I truly believe in, is something that I can't even put into words.
Having said that, I have many great memories of IDF. My first IDF Summit was Vancouver and I remember sitting in the SCNH meeting and that was the first time I felt the camaraderie and friendship of the IDF experts and staff. I recognized the benefit and importance of having a strong global network all working for the same goal and having the ability to have a consensus. Let's be honest, it's not always easy to get consensus but when you can, it's a powerful thing.
And of course there are many, many more memories. Ones that have a much lighter and more fun note to them.
Why did you decide to run for IDF President?
Running for IDF President was not a decision I took lightly. I have been involved with IDF at every level, from member and Chair of the Standing Committee on Nutrition and Health to member of the Science Programme Coordination Committee and the Board.
Over the years, I saw the huge amount of good the organization has been engaged in, work that is essential for the sector. Work that IDF sometime the members don't even know about or that IDF is not recognized for. You will no doubt have heard many people say that if IDF didn't exist we'd have to invent it. Those are not just words for me, I firmly believe it. I knew IDF's potential, I knew what the organization can do for and on behalf of its members and I wanted to make sure we delivered. I decided to run for IDF President because I strongly believe in its vision and I wanted to help IDF reach its goals and speak in a clear, united voice.
What do you see as the biggest challenge for IDF?
The world is changing at an astonishing pace and if we want to ensure a role for dairy, we need to keep up. Think about how far we've gone in the last 70 years. In 1950, nobody used the word globalization. Sustainability and environmental issues were nowhere to be found on the agenda. Plant-based products were not an issue and dairy was an obvious choice. Consumers didn't interact with the media, they consumed messages.
Today, everything has changed. Globalization and sustainability are the new normal. Plant-based products have become serious – and often aggressive – competition. The way consumers perceive messages has gone through a profound evolution; the 21st century consumer engages, interacts and expects more and more from the media. Governments and intergovernmental organizations are lobbied heavily by consumer groups and activist groups who very often use emotive arguments and are not fact based.
We operate in a new environment which evolves constantly. Whether we are talking about the benefits of dairy from a nutritional, environmental or economic perspective we need to adapt so that our messages are fact based but told in a way that people can understand and want to engage with. Antimicrobial resistance, environmental issues, the march of the plant based product, animal welfare, maintaining our standards, demonstrating the role for our products in the diets of existing and future consumers to intergovernmental organizations and other stakeholders, will all be challenges. And although we have some work to do, we have a good story. That means using IDF resources and expertise to help make our industry more modern, more responsive and ready to seize opportunities.
Why should a country join IDF?
There are many reasons for countries to join IDF. First of all, IDF provides the global expertise to represent the industry on a range of issues. If you don't have a seat at the IDF table, you don't have input into decisions which may affect you further down the line.
Every national dairy industry has potential reputational issues around food safety, standards, health and the integrity of production and processing methods. Through IDF, we can help countries share their successes but also their mistakes so other can learn from these experiences, creating their own successes and avoiding some mistakes. Additionally, emerging dairy markets will face issues developed markets have had to deal with before. And, developed markets can learn from innovative practices in new markets. We need each other and IDF can facilitate dialogues and foster cooperation throughout its membership.
We also have an essential role to play to defend the industry. I'm a scientist by trade and nothing angers me more than baseless claims or spurious arguments. That is why IDF's role is so important when working with international organizations. The science underpinning the dairy industry is formidable and by pulling our resources together, we can make a real difference.
We live in a world of perpetual noise with new conflicting and confusing messages sprouting every day and it is increasingly difficult to make ourselves heard. That's why I want IDF to be a repository of knowledge and a conduit between the global dairy sector and our key partners. We are here to articulate a message and work constructively with international organizations as their trusted partner.
The networking opportunities that IDF offers are second to none.
What's the industry biggest strength?
Dairy's credentials are unique. Dairy products are nutritious, wholesome and sustainable and the industry provides livelihoods to 1 billion people across the world. It's an industry that creates, innovates and always strives to do better. Not to mention that dairy products come in so many tastes, textures and flavours!
Where we have weaknesses, we recognize them and work towards improvement. Our biggest strength is that we have a million strengths so let's shout it from a mountaintop.