A new structured mentoring initiative where the expertise of leading indigenous food and drink companies will be shared with small food firms was launched this week at Bord Bia’s Small Business Open Day. More than 120 food companies gathered in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Blanchardstown, Dublin, to hear how global food and drink companies such as Glanbia, Nestle, Coca-Cola, Kepak, Bulmers, and Kraft will offer their advice and expertise to small food firms in the key areas of business strategy, account management, and logistics. The mentoring programme will be coordinated by Bord Bia in cooperation with FDII (Food and Drink Industry Ireland ).
Launching the initiative the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, stated: “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.”
Bord Bia is now inviting small companies to participate in the mentoring programme. Those who register for the service will be matched with an appropriate industry experienced mentor.
Aidan Cotter, chief executive, Bord Bia added: “This initiative will help nurture and further develop Ireland’s speciality 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 some 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 €1 million in marketing grant aid.
According to Bord Bia’s recent food industry survey (December 2011 ), small food businesses remain optimistic about the future of the sector – more than 79 per cent viewed the prospects for their business in 2012 as good or very good, compared to 70 per cent in 2010. When asked to compare their prospects to a year earlier, 66 per cent rated them as better, with 87 per cent securing new customers and 59 per cent developing new product offerings in the past year. However financial pressures still prevail – 78 per cent 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 10 companies.