Launching the initiative the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, commended the industry for its support and willingness to help the specialty food sector achieve its potential. "The sharing of experiential learning is hugely beneficial and I’d like to encourage all small companies to avail of this invaluable guidance, insight and advice. Food Harvest 2020 recognised ‘co-opetition’ as a key strategy for Ireland's food industry and this programme represents an excellent opportunity for companies large and small to collaborate and co-operate for the benefit of the sector."
At today’s seminar, Bord Bia invited small companies to participate in the mentoring programme. Those who register for the service will be matched with an appropriate industry experienced mentor.
Speaking at the event today Aidan Cotter, Chief Executive, Bord Bia commented "this initiative will help nurture and further develop Ireland’s specialty food companies. Small food and drink businesses are important contributors to the recovery and future prosperity of the Irish economy. Their survival and growth does not only bring investment returns for individual businesses, it also underpins the wider local community and the image of Ireland as a provider of high quality, innovative and sustainable food excellence."
Bord Bia works with over 400 small food businesses with an annual turnover of some €400 million. Approximately 3,000 people are directly employed in the sector and in 2011, 183 companies were approved a total in excess of €1million in marketing grant aid. "As one of Bord Bia’s six strategic priorities, supporting a dynamic and growth-oriented small business sector remains central to Bord Bia’s policy for the food and drink industry" he added.
Shane Dempsey, Head of Consumer Foods, FDII, said at the seminar, "Global food companies and leading indigenous food companies will work with some of Ireland's most impressive food-entrepreneurs on specific projects. This form of micro co-opetition can become a key component in putting food at the centre of the economy and FDII commends all for their involvement".
According to Bord Bia’s recent food industry survey (December 2011), small food businesses remain optimistic about the future of the sector – over 79% viewed the prospects for their business in 2012 as good or very good, compared to 70% in 2010. When asked to compare their prospects to a year earlier, 66% rated them as better, with 87% securing new customers and 59% developing new product offerings in the past year. However financial pressures still prevail – 78% of those surveyed cited delayed payments and bad debts as the most significant challenge facing the industry, while the lack of capital investment remains a key concern with seven out of ten companies.
In 2012, many small firms will travel with Bord Bia to trade fairs in the UK, Germany and further afield. Next month, seven organic small businesses will participate on the Ireland stand at Biofach in Germany, the largest international organic trade fair in the world and some 56 small food businesses will participate at Bord Bia’s Marketplace International 2012. Over 400 international and 110 domestic food and beverage buyers are expected to attend the trade development event taking place in the Dublin Convention Centre on Tuesday, 7th February.
Minister of State for Small Business at the Department of Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation, John Perry TD, who was also in attendance, addressed the seminar about the importance of small business to the Irish economy. Other keynote speakers at today’s seminar included Catherine Cross, Kantar Worldpanel, on the Irish retail landscape; Damien McLoughlin, UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School provided some food for thought with a comprehensive case study outlining the success of New Zealand Kiwifruit in international markets; Helen King, Head of Insight and Innovation, Bord Bia presented on Periscope 6, the latest research findings on Irish consumer behavior and attitudes towards food, shopping and cooking and Fiachra O’Marcaigh, AMAS Consulting highlighted online marketing opportunities for small food producers. Jim Gleeson, Ulster Bank, provided top financial tips for 2012 and Tara McCarthy, Director, Food and Beverages Division, Bord Bia concluded the seminar with an overview of Bord Bia’s wide range of services and programmes to assist small businesses. There was also a showcase of services on offer from other support agencies including County Enterprise Boards, Enterprise Ireland and Teagasc.