Small food businesses demonstrate resilience through recession

Small food businesses in Ireland are continuing to demonstrate strong growth both on the domestic and export markets, according to new figures released by Bord Bia this week. Bord Bia works with over 400 small food businesses with an annual turnover of some €400 million, representing an increase in value of seven per cent per year since 2007.

Looking ahead to 2011 the prospects also remain positive. According to Bord Bia’s recent food industry survey (December 2010 ) over 70 per cent of small food businesses viewed the prospects for their business in 2011 as good or very good. When asked to compare their prospects to a year earlier, 56 per cent rated them as better.

When asked the source of business generated over the last year some 74 per cent increased business with existing customers, 43 per cent won back business with former customers, while an impressive 90 per cent developed business with new customers. In terms of sales prospects, 65 per cent had increased their sales forecasts for 2011.

“We’ve seen significant success in the past few years despite this being perhaps the most difficult period faced by the sector. Small business sales are growing even among those dependent on a very challenging Irish market. While annual turnover has grown by seven per cent, certain categories are exceeding this level of growth,” commented Una Fitzgibbon, Marketing Services Director, Bord Bia.

“Non alcoholic beverages have shown in excess of 40 per cent growth since 2007, driven by an appetite for mineral water and sports nutritional drinks; alcoholic beverages increased by more than 30 per cent driven by a new demand for boutique or craft beers and charcuterie has grown by over 25 per cent as consumers become more aware of the distinction in deli meats.”

Over 140 food entrepreneurs gathered this week for Bord Bia’s Small Business Seminar in Enfield, Co Meath. Keynote speakers included those who have overcome personal and business obstacles including Grania Willis, the first Irish woman to summit the Himalayan peak Cho Oyu (the sixth highest mountain in the world ), and Willie Wixted of ABC Nutrition, a fast-growing sports nutrition manufacturer set up in 2007, currently exporting to 13 countries including France, Sweden, Spain and India. Other keynote speakers included Jonathan Ryan of Kantar on how changing consumer behaviour will impact on businesses in 2011. Branding expert John Fanning, Economist Jim Power and entrepreneur Domini Kemp gave varied perspectives on how to best use branding, marketing and finance to bring sales to life in the current climate.

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