Jun Yamaura knew that Japanese society was evolving much differently than those in other parts of the world. The term “millennials” might frequently come up in conversation with some of his Western friends, but in Japan, where nearly a quarter of the population is older than 65, it was the elderly population that captured the most market focus. So when a company he worked for designed a new frozen food line for the elderly, he and his colleagues were certain it would take off.
“We finally realized that elderly people don’t think they’re elderly,” he said during a Panel of Peers discussion hosted by UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. “They think they’re still young. They don't want to change their habits and they don't care about nutritious food.” If Yamaura and his colleagues could figure out what does appeal to and concern the elderly, they realized, it would be a boon: “We could create a strategy for other countries, because almost all developed countries—including the United States and China—will become aging societies in the near future.”
Yamaura was one of four panelists sharing their stories on a Panel of Peers held during Global Network Week in June. The week, which focused on food-related business issues, provided a setting for students in a similar industry space to discuss their experiences and share ideas that could benefit classmates. The student-led forum started at the Yale School of Management as part of the MBA for Executive program’s in-residence weekend. Some discussions start by focusing on a specific topic, but the conversations often follow unexpected paths.
Another Panel of Peers participant, Ruth Hughes, who is a commercial director at the Kellogg Company and a student at Smurfit, said events like Panel of Peers provide Global Network students with a forum to bounce ideas off of each other without the pressures of a workplace environment.
“I'm in a position where I've recently been promoted into a leadership position, and that can be a little bit lonely sometimes, because everybody on your team works for you,” Hughes said. “The fantastic thing about the network here is that you've got a group of people who don't have an agenda, but are happy to help you at any time, or give you advice... I could pick up the phone and talk to any one of my classmates about a particular issue that I'm experiencing and know that they’re experienced and able to provide advice for me.”