New drive to make us love buying Irish food

Q&A: Kieran Rumley

Love Irish Food was established in 2009 to promote Irish manufactured food and drink brands to consumers in order to help safeguard the future of Ireland’s largest indigenous industry.

The 110 Love Irish Food member brand companies account for about 30,000 jobs — 17,043 direct jobs in the Irish economy, plus about 13,000 downstream jobs, creating gross wages of over €800 million per annum.

Their contribution to the national Exchequer exceeds €250m per annum.

But they work in a challenging and fiercely competitive; even in their home market, at least €1.8bn of the €3.3bn branded products sold are imported products.

Love Irish Food is investing €200,000 in a pre-Christmas campaign asking consumers to check where their branded products come from.

Consumers can contact Love Irish Food if they want to check where their favourite branded food comes from, said Kieran Rumley, executive director of Love Irish Food.

* First of all, Kieran, how can a consumer contact Love Irish Food, and what can you tell them?

>>Consumers can contact LIF on its Facebook page or through our www.loveirishfood.ie website via the contact tab.

If a consumer is in any doubt at all with regards to the origins of a product, we will be in a position to tell them whether or not that particular branded product is manufactured in Ireland.

If this information is not available, we can tell them the brand name of an alternative Irish-made product.

* The consumer knows best. Does the Irish manufacturer need to do a better job, to convince us to buy Irish food brands rather than imported brands?

>>The country of origin on many food products is unclear.

Irish manufacturers need to take advantage of this uncertainty, and show that products are manufactured in the Republic of Ireland.

Shoppers recognise the LIF mark, and from this understand that products carrying the LIF mark are produced in the Republic of Ireland. Brand owners can join LIF if they meet the strict criteria of being produced in Ireland and using Irish ingredients where available.

* Ireland already exports most of its food. How important are sales in Ireland for our food companies?

>>Domestic demand for food products creates the foundation for the vast majority of food companies.

We have long been aware of the economic benefits of buying Irish manufactured branded goods over imported alternatives.

Our new Love Irish Food member brand jobs and exchequer contribution figures confirm these benefits, and once again point to the important role of the agri-food sector in Ireland’s economic recovery.

It is clear that this high-value-added indigenous sector contributes greatly to the creation of jobs and to our economic future.

* Explain how the Love Irish Food symbol helps consumers buy Irish to support Irish jobs.

>>The LIF mark has a huge recognition factor. Research shows eight out of 10 people recognise the mark.

By buying products carrying the LIF mark, jobs are sustained and new jobs are created in the Irish food industry. By switching just two imported food and drink products a week to two Irish manufactured brands, Irish households could generate over €300m per year for the economy.

The agri-food sector is clearly an industry that can make a very strong contribution to re-building a sustainable economic model.

As well as making a very high-value-added contribution to the national economy, the food industry is now the key driver of regional economic activity and the mainstay of rural towns.

However, the key to unlocking that potential is new products and strong brands, rather than commodities.

The number of jobs we can create from producing and selling commodities is limited.

The success of Love Irish Food member companies such as Glanbia, Britvic and Cadbury, both at home and abroad, shows how important the Irish food brand is.

* Some of our food companies have moved their production and jobs overseas. How big a part did low sales in Ireland play in their decisions?

>>Companies may opt to produce their products outside of Ireland, resulting in the loss of Irish food jobs in the economy.

They may do this for a host of reasons.

However, in doing this, they lose a significant competitive advantage against Irish-produced brands.

Irish shoppers prefer to buy Irish-produced food brands, when price and quality are competitive with imported alternatives, because they understand the knock-on effect on the creation of jobs in the economy.

* Irish food brands are doing well in the fresh soups, coffee, home baking, crisps, and eggs categories. Are there any particular categories where Irish food brand sales are disappointing.

>>We have seen the loss of Irish-produced branded categories such as sugar, biscuits, ice cream over the years.

We now import over €600m of these three categories alone into the Irish economy, each year.

In the dairy category, for example, the dominant yoghurt brands are imported (Muller, Yoplait).

However, new brands, such as Glenilen from West Cork, are carving out growth through quality innovation in the children’s market, and are now set to focus on the family market.

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