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.


8 thoughts on “Bord Bia Small Business Seminar – panel discussion

  1. Thanks, Keith, for the report on today’s meeting; sorry I couldn’t get there, but was at an equally useful meeting in Clonakilty at The West Cork SAIL Forum held at the Seafood Development Center.
    I do think that joining these “marketing groups” can be very costly for small producers and I worry about the effect of inclusion/exclusion of such groups.
    I made comments on our blog last year ( which are I think still valid.
    I would agree with John Fanning’s (and yours) comment on keeping the personality upfront. I’m sure it is important to avoid the Corporate image as long as possible!!

  2. Thanks Anthony. It continues to be a very confusing area which will take a while longer to rationalise.

    It could be that the production of food has become inherently too complex and interdependent and the abundance of food labels/certifications will just reflect that – with many genuinely different approaches being accommodated.


  3. Keith – thanks for the report! I missed out on attending too (transport issues – don’t ask!). I’m afraid I would be inclined to agree with Veronica that €1000 is very expensive – and I’d consider Crossogue a much bigger producer than us! Keep up the good work!


  4. I think I would have been nodding my head vigorously during Domini Kemp’s talk. Sometimes the passion can get lost in the day to day. Great report – thanks.

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