Bord Bia Small Business Seminar – panel discussion

Panel is chaired by John Murray of RTE

  • Jim Power, Economist,
  • John Fanning, Lecturer in Branding and Marketing Communications, UCD Smurfit Business School,
  • Domini Kemp, Entrepreneur and food writer
  • Business Development Advisor from Bank of Ireland.

Domini Kemp, itsabagel

You need to hussle, hussle, hussle. Spoke about being weighed down by the everyday drudge of business and it being difficult to find the passion for chasing down sales.

On costs you need to renegotiate with every supplier (especially the ones which do not directly impact on the quality of your products).

John Fanning

You are a brand whether you like it or not. How do you move from being a brand to being an iconic brand. Being iconic is not about money, its about imagination. Its about a strong story and then about telling that story.

That story is about using language – stripping out cliches. Loose every phrase you ever heard a politician utter.

Jim Power

He says he is passionate about the food sector. Believes it can make a strong contribution to the revival of the economy and in particular on the rural economy (he grew up on a farm). Agri-food’s time has come!

The issue in 2011 is the availability of credit – this is coming to him from conversations with entrepreneurs right around the country. It is incredibly tight out there – he advised businesses to establish or reestablish your relationship with your bank manager/contact.

The domestic market will be equally tight for the next 2 to 3 years – you should be offering value for money. OR – differentiate with quality and “artisan” positioning.

He finished with a pitch for Love Irish Food in which he is involved and he mentioned their forum as a place to interact with other Irish food producers. It is restricted to members only.

Bank of Ireland – Michael

Will he say anything actually useful? He agreed with Jim on the communication with bank being key. Said their clients need to help the bank understand how the business will differentiate in the future – what plans are in place to consolidate or grow the business.

Otherwise blah blah blah. No restrictions on lending to the SME sector. blah blah blah. In a subsequent discussion he elaborated on that – he said that they are having to now learn how to implement stronger understandings of overall business assessment as well as a look at the rigid financials – this additional layer has slowed down the process and made it tighter.


Birgitta Curtin, Burren Smokehouse. Artisan can mean volume with high quality. Asked a question about how to safeguard 100% Irish sourced and produced foods against looser criteria and standards.

Jim Power commented on the Love Irish Food and their criteria (which are less rigid) – recognising that there are certain food products which are cannot be 100% produced and processed here. Barrys Tea for example.

Veronica Molloy – Crossogue Preserves. As a small producer she found the fee for Love Irish Food too high – could there not be a lower fee for small scale production.

Jim said the marketing costs incurred by the organisation are high.

(Keith: the fee is €1,000 for under a million turnover which is a big chunk of cash)

Another producer whose name I missed said that their membership has been very worthwhile for them.

New questions: Food producer who did not give his name asked how he can become Bord Bia approved? Una Fitzgibbon briefly responded that the Mark is currently positioned more for larger producers and they will be working to make it more accessible.

Mag Kirwan – Goatsbridge Trout Farm

She said that they have been approached to join Love Irish Foods and they have decided not to do so. She is looking for something more than just a marketing label – something which has an export focus. Will Love Irish Food have that export focus?

Jim said that they might – the people involved continue to assess the goals for the label.

Deirdre Collins, Dee Wholefoods

She spoke about a brand which is so closely based on the founder having (at some stage) to disassociate from the person who started it to avoid confusion between the person and the brand. She was referring specifically to social media.

John Fanning suggested that there may not be a need to – if the individual is strong that adds to the strength of the food product.

(Keith:  this can go either way. However I continue to believe, as does John, that the passion and skills and personality of the individual provide a powerful differentiator and it would be a shame to dilute that unless there is a really good reason)

Question on use of Love Irish Food in own labels. Jim Power said that the members believe in the power of the brand and they do not back it for own labels.

(Keith: I guess this is a variation of the never ending power struggle between brand and own label)

Question – can anything be done to help bridge the gap between microproduction (for which in Dublin there are only 10 to 15 outlets for artisan producers) and then moving to supply supermarkets etc.There is no inbetween scale.

Domini suggested a artisan focused distributor to extend the market. She really thought that export to similar artisan stores in the UK would be one option. Eileen from Bord Bia suggested partial listings with the multiples – only being stocked in a small number of their stores instead of all of them.

Last one – John was asked about exporting. He said he would start with the Irish tribes abroad – using them as brand champions to start with.

That’s it – missed a lot of the discussion Q&A’s, it was a very packed session.


Bord Bia Small Business Seminar – Marketing Supports for Irish SMEs

Given by Eileen Bentley of Bord Bia


this is the Bord Bia marketing service.

  • Vantage Point – website with resources and discussions –
  • Vantage Partner – a 12 month business development program
  • Vantage Promote – consumer research

2011 Outlook

Overall the SME food sector is positive on the outlook. Biggest challenges from the sector:

  • Avoiding margin pressure from retailers
  • Meeting changing consumer needs
  • Reducing production and distribution costs
  • Investing in new brands

Cost Reduction

The Vantage Partner programme works with client companies over 12 months to develop a vision for the business (working with experts) and outputs include both business and marketing plans which are operationally usable and realistic and have been tested against the market.

Distribution challenges

Vantage Distribution Clinics 2011. These work as follows:

Initial meeting with Bord Bia and a distribution expert. This leads to BB and the expert developing a distribution plan for you. First of these clinics happens in April 2011.

New Product Development

Assistance with this time consuming area.

Access to latest Market Research – both general and sector specific

(as an aside I have used the Bord Bia research a couple of times and it is a really strong resource. However the Bord Bia website(s) are antiquated – their content management is lousy. Just so you know – find a real person in there and speak to them)


access to low cost consumer innovation. This involves your new food product samples being presented to consumer panels with structured feedback. Apparently client feedback on this service is really strong.

Brand Expertise – Brand Forum

By joining this producers get access to 4 workshops a year, share peer knowledge with each other, 5 bigger events and access to mentoring in a variety of brand related marketing areas.

Eileen mentioned a couple of things to finish off:

  • The overseas offices and direct access to marketing graduates in a new programme to be launched in the next month or two who will be available to assist client companies with new brands/projects in those marketplaces.
  • 7th February 2012 was given as a date for the next MarketPlace event – bring Irish suppliers together with National buyers from retailers.
  • There is a pilot project in the South East – a roadshow which will showcase local producers for local procurers – making trade buyers aware of the suppliers around them – did not get much more detail that than.

Marketing Assistance Grants 2011

CLOSING DATE 28th FEB 2011. 60% of marketing spend for branding, quality standards, trade shows – whatever . For companies with turnover between 100k and 3.5M


Bord Bia Small Business Seminar – Jonathan Ryan, Kantar

“Jonathan Ryan will present on how consumer purchasing behaviour has changed in 2010 and how companies can work smarter in 2011 to maximise opportunities in Ireland and the UK” Their website here. They work by assembling information based on analysis of actual consumer behaviour – tracking shopping baskets.

His talk is entitled “The Shopper Landscape”

1. What is influencing consumers

Started with the trend of saving cash – consumers trading down in certain food brand and related to that shopping more in the discounters. Overall the spend on food is 6.4% down.

Recession busting categories:

Home baking and anything relating to consumption at home, lunchboxes snacks and meals, budget and convenience also there (no surprises so!)

2. Retail Landscape

Jonathan presented a series of store report cards – too much detail to capture here. I will put up slides/link to slides if they are available afterwards.

3. How do I grow my brand

There is only one long term way to grow your brand. Develop loyal customers and increase the average  life time value. Interestingly he does not rate Loyalty Marketing as a sustainable way of achieving this.

So how do you get more trade buyers and increase the value of their purchases from you. He focused on New Product Development (NPD) as the key way of doing this – constantly innovating.


Bord Bia Small Business Seminar – Willie Wixted, ABC Nutrition

I am here at a Bord Bia seminar for food producers and will be blogging from it for the next couple of hours.

Willie’s business (their website here – needs a rework!) started in 2007 with a team of four and they currently employ 10. 4 of those are food technologists. They manufacture sports nutrition products. and had 50% sales growth in 2010 – driven by export sales (73% of turnover). They export to 12 different countries.

How did they grow their business?

In Spain they work with someone they initially met at a trade show and then spent 1.5 years sending him samples. Now he is one of their biggest customers. For Greece he scoured forums (using google translate) and identified targets that way.
Italy happened via a cold call from someone who visited their website. Which was terrible at the time. The Italian found them listed as exhibitors at a relevant trade show and this happened with another customer as well.

Sweden happened differently – they met a consultant who had done a report on the market there who discounted their chances in a saturated and competitive market.
They got into it via a Swedish company who were used as a trade reference by a prospective Chinese supplier. They chased them down like a dog with a bone. (this guy is incredibly tenacious, really impressive!).

Had great words for both Bord Bia and Enterprise Ireland because of their local knowledge in overseas markets. He also mentioned the importance of showcasing – working with leading names in whatever sector you are in. On a related theme if you win an award put it on your packaging – use stickers if you have too until you can get the packaging redesigned.

Suppliers and Team

75% of their ingredients are dairy based – purchasing from suppliers like Carbery in Cork. He used this to illustrate how a successful food business leads to significant employment downstream (as opposed to software for example). Was full of praise for the quality of Irish dairy products – the grass based system we have gives us an edge over most other countries. A lot of countries do not have access to the raw materials and they are an ambient export so easy to ship.

He spoke a little about their team and the ongoing investment in their qualifications and scientific knowledge. They assists them with their ongoing R&D – investigating the stress on sportsmen and women across different sports.

Generating Leads

Attending trade shows – both the ones in Ireland for incoming buyers which are run by Bord Bia and also Trade Shows in other countries. On the internet get your site up and then ensure you are listed in those trade show websites – they lead to very targeted traffic. A great fan of working late in the night on the web – people are up still and on forums etc.