[01 August/Stuff NZ] Plant & Food Chief Executive David Hughes spoke at Horticulture NZ’s annual conference about emerging global food trends that will affect the nation’s fruit and vegetable growers. Trends highlighted included vegetarianism, robotics, opportunities around cannabis if it were legalised and seaweed and vertical farming. About 7 percent of New Zealand’s population are vegetarian, however Prof Hughes believes that meat will remain a large part in people’s diets, although admits that the flexitarian diet is on a rise. Food companies in the US have responded to the growing rate of citizens living a flexitarian lifestyle by releasing alternative products that were either wholly or partly plant-based. Prof Hughes reported that these were proving hugely popular presenting a massive opportunity for New Zealand’s horticulture industry as demand grew and recommended that large companies such as Fonterra should consider offering flexitarian and vegetable-based options if they were to ride this trend.