The Irish food and drink industry’s ambitions for growth and expansion moved a further step forward today when over 520 food buyers from 28 countries across four continents, gathered at Dublin’s Convention Centre recently to attend Marketplace International 2012, a major one-day business development event organised by Bord Bia.
Some 177 Irish food and drink companies, ranging in size and profile from small enterprises to multinationals, will meet with targeted buyers during 4,500 pre-scheduled ‘speed-dating’ style meetings taking place throughout the day.
The trade buyers, with a collective buying power in excess of €18 billion, represent some of the world’s key retail and foodservice operators including Sainsburys, Selfridges, Tesco, Asda, Carrefour, Delhaize (Belgium), Mercadona (Spain) and Alcampo (Spain). Marketplace International 2012 is the largest buyer event Bord Bia has ever staged.
Opening the event, the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD said “Identifying and opening new exciting markets for Irish food, while positioning Ireland globally as an innovative and top quality producer with high standards is a key target for me as Minister. We need to build on our excellent food export results for 2011. Marketplace is about businesses making the connections they require in order to drive growth. We need companies to be ambitious for themselves and for the Irish food industry as a whole.”
“The record €8.9 billion achieved in 2011 marks the resilience of the Irish food and drinks industry, its positivity and determination to supply buyers and consumers with the very best in quality and innovative products. I am delighted to see at first hand the truly international nature of Marketplace 2012 and welcome both buyers and suppliers to this event” he added.
Michael Carey, Chairman of Bord Bia, emphasized the Irish food industry’s readiness and capability to seek out new market opportunities and broaden their export reach. “This is an industry where world-class commitments to quality and food safety are routine; an industry which meets the needs of some of the most sophisticated consumers in the world on a daily basis; and an industry that has achieved double-digit growth in its exports over the last two years” said Mr. Carey. “Today marks the culmination of 12 months planning, preparation and training and that combined with our theme of ‘Ireland, Partners in Growth’ will leave our visiting buyers in no doubt that we are here to do business” he added.
In addition to a strong representation of UK and European buyers, 14 representatives from leading Chinese retail and foodservice companies travelled to the event; while 17 buyers from the Middle East and 12 from Russia also attended. In 2011, Irish food and drink exports performed very strongly in International markets led by significant growth in dairy, meat and seafood. For the year, it is estimated that the value of exports outside of Europe grew by 20%, or €350 million, to reach almost €2.2 billion.
Ireland’s Sustainable Food Industry
During a lunchtime address, Aidan Cotter, Chief Executive, Bord Bia briefed delegates on how Bord Bia’s innovative sustainability programme is underpinning Ireland’s green image. Dr. Jason Clay, Senior Vice President of the World Wildlife Fund, joined the discussion and also spoke to attendees via video link. Since May 2011, Bord Bia has been auditing and measuring the carbon footprint of 500 Irish beef farms each week, with almost half of the 32,000 certified members of its Beef Quality Assurance Scheme already covered to date.
A similar model for the dairy industry being developed by Bord Bia in conjunction with Teagasc is now at an advanced stage, while plans are also in place to incorporate measures for water-footprinting and biodiversity. “The scope of our sustainability programme is without parallel anywhere in the world and will create a unique position for our industry in the international marketplace” commented Aidan Cotter. “As our farms improve their carbon footprint scores over time, they are also improving their efficiencies and lowering their costs in a virtuous cycle that is good for our farms, good for our environment, and good for our customers.”
Exploring all Opportunities
During the buyers’ stay in Dublin, Bord Bia is also using the opportunity to organise additional itineraries allowing interested buyers to examine Ireland’s foodservice and retail sectors. Customized tailor-made itineraries have been devised for buyers from certain markets e.g. Eastern Europe, China and Russia and also some sector specific itineraries including US alcohol control boards, seafood buyers and Selfridges, the premium store, in preparation for an in-store promotion of Irish artisan food scheduled for March / April.
Preparation and next steps
Following feedback from Marketplace 2010, Bord Bia developed a comprehensive training programme for companies to ensure they were adequately prepared for Marketplace 2012. Through a series of training workshops companies availed of advice on logistics, distribution costs, choosing export markets and sales pitch techniques. In addition, Bord Bia has put a rigorous follow up plan in place to assist companies convert the opportunities arising at the event to business. A ‘Follow Up’ day will take place on Wednesday, February 22nd.
Ireland’s Largest Indigenous Industry
The value of Irish food and drink exports increased by 12%, or €1 billion, in 2011 to reach an all-time high of €8.85 billion. It is estimated that volume growth accounted for 25% of the rise in food and drink exports. The strongest performing categories were dairy (€2.6 billion), meat (€2.59 billion), prepared foods (€1.5 billion) and seafood (€420 million).