As overseas consumers of New Zealand food become more diverse in their requirements, the need for a "NZ story" that compels them to continue eating and drinking Kiwi dairy, meat, fruit, wine and other edible exports is increasing.

And this need has become more urgent as foreign competitors have ramped up their efforts to pitch their products in the same markets our primary sector supplies.

Ireland's Origin Green initiative has a high profile among these rivals.

Setting high standards for sustainability and animal welfare, it is achieving major buy in across the farming and processing sector and winning the hearts and minds of the Irish public along the way.


But Bayleys real estate country manager Simon Anderson says a story about Kiwi food production as compelling as Ireland's is evolving throughout the provinces.

"In Hawke's Bay, we have a successful regional apple industry developing with really innovative marketing that is going from strength to strength alongside a high value artisan food product sector putting a local 'story' behind the products."

He also points to Marlborough's successful wine industry, with sauvignon blanc drawing its own following of wine tourists and aficionados around the world.

Departing Massey University vice chancellor and New Zealand food champion Steve Maharey said the opportunity to create a "New Zealand story", wrap it in a quality standard mark and spin it off into other areas of the economy like tourism was significant.

"We often don't give visiting overseas tourists enough to spend their money on while here. We want them to be able to enjoy high quality food in regions like Marlborough, and then know they can also buy it when they get back home."

He and many others support a collaborative effort to tell a story embodied in a certifiable quality mark about New Zealand's food, where it comes from, how it is grown and the people behind it.

Similarly, dry stock farmer and trade envoy Mike Petersen is confident a unified plan for a national brand is starting to come together.

He says New Zealand is unique in how it exports almost 90 per cent of what it grows.

However, it is also exporting to increasingly diverse markets, compared to countries like Ireland where most products are sold within a relatively homogenous European market.

With diversity comes a need for New Zealand to be able to make the message, or the "story" more adaptable to target markets.

For example, research by Lincoln University professor of trade and environmental economics Caroline Saunders has shown Chinese consumers rank animal welfare 15 per cent less significantly than their Indian counterparts.

"We have the models developed to understand each market segment, so we can become very responsive to what consumers want to hear," says Petersen.

He is hopeful the drive for a national integrity stamp will spread further.

Anderson says many New Zealand primary producers are already well on the way to fulfil the standards a "NZ certified" mark would require.

"We are already lifting sustainability standards with water plans in every region, we have some of the best animal welfare standards in the world and we have farmers absolutely committed to being the best in the world."