Market research is vital to success of small food companies

Food start-ups can boost their chances of success by conducting more research before launching products, says Tara McCarthy, director of Bord Bia’s food and beverage division.

“It is essential for companies to have, and maintain, a deep understanding of their consumers and competitors,” said Ms McCarthy.

“Detailed marketing research will make you more aware of how customers and consumers will react to current or new potential products and services.”

Optimism has never been higher among Irish food companies. A recent Bord Bia food industry survey found 67% of small Irish food businesses expect to grow in 2014. In fact, almost half of those businesses increased turnover in 2013.

Bord Bia says these companies are right to be optimistic. Before they ever to export goods, they have a strong domestic market in which to compete.

“With a current value of around €9bn, and an average spend on grocery items per household of €5,500, grocery retail in Ireland represents a key sales opportunity for food producers,” said Ms McCarthy.

Bord Bia works with 400 small food businesses with an annual turnover of €400m. Some 3,000 people are directly employed in the sector. In 2013, Bord Bia approved almost €1m in marketing grants to 187 companies. In 2014, many small firms will travel with Bord Bia to trade fairs across Britain, Germany, and further afield.

These companies come from a wide array of backgrounds. Some are farm-based operations looking for a more direct relationship with consumers; some start as cottage industries; others are people from diverse business backgrounds who see an opportunity in food.

To optimise the chances of success, Bord Bia has launched a Guide to Retail for Small Food Producers, which aims to assist small food firms win and grow business in the Irish retail sector.

Last week, Bord Bia shared the booklet with the 170 small food businesses at the annual Small Business Open Day in Dublin.

“Supporting a dynamic, profitable and growth-oriented small business sector remains central to Bord Bia’s strategic plans,” said Ms McCarthy.

“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.”

The guide includes profiles of retailers and discounters and an overview of independent specialist stores, as well as a sample pricing model and a glossary of retail terms.

It is part of a series of publications from Bord Bia including the Guide to Distribution for Food and Drink Producers and the forthcoming Guide to Farmer’s Markets for Small Food Producers.


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