Increase in start-up food firms is good news

IN times of economic uncertainty the ability of some firms to buck the trend is always reassuring.

One case in point is Aryzta, which incorporates IAWS and the Swiss-based bakery group, Hiestand.

Aryzta is now based in Zurich and the loss of IAWS which was one of the top performing food stock not just in Ireland but internationally, is a loss from a prestige point of view.

That said the results delivered yesterday by the company has caught the imagination of the markets.

Despite rising inflation and the need for prices to be raised by double digits to counter inflation in raw materials, Aryzta is maintaining that it will meet its medium term earnings growth.

When the Irish economy is struggling, it is reassuring to know that IAWS, led by Owen Killian, engineered the merger in 2008 and has since given the group a global reach that few would have envisaged.

He was a real influence in the IAWS story during the time of Philip Lynch, who went on to found One51.

Some suggest his strategic brain was a key factor in the success of the IAWS whose transformational purchase of Cuisine de France under Lynch set the wheels in motion for the new group internationally.

The success of Aryzta comes at a time when renewed focus is being placed on the Irish food sector.

Kerry Group has led the way for quite some time and is now the global leader in ingredients and flavours internationally.

Glanbia is building serious strength in the nutritionals sector and with the upturn in global dairy markets that sector is also on course to deliver good results in the coming years.

It’s not fully appreciated that the Kilkenny-based group accounts for nearly 19% of cheddar cheese output in the US.

This represents huge progress for a group that struggled for some years to get its cost base right and to redefine itself following the merger of the two publicly quoted dairy groups, Avonmore and Waterford.

The Irish dairy sector has demonstrated a capability to grow and develop over the years, even if strong support of the Common Agriculture Policy was a major factor in its success.

We have shown resilience and are at a point where fresh focus is being placed on the potential of this sector once more.

Its ongoing success will rely on the resilience of the sector to delve growth and to build R&D capability that will ensure we can sustain a very strong hold on the food tables of the wold, either directly or indirectly.

Food nutrition is one of the growth sector and it is encouraging that the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has seen a huge increase in the number of inquiries from people wishing to set up a food businesses.

Since the recession started in 2008, the FSAI’s free industry advice service chalked up a 72% increase in requests for specific information and resources to assist a business start-up. It has set up a dedicated area of its website, www.fsai.ie, to be a one-stop resource for anyone seeking information on getting involved in the food sector.

What’s most encouraging is that there has been a growth in the actual number of food businesses registered here, with 46,259 food businesses registered with the HSE last year, compared to 44,052 in 2008.

Already in the first two months of 2011, requests for business start-up information are up by 29%, compared to the same time last year. If that interest is fully exploited the contribution to the economy down the line could be enormous.

The FSAI said in response to the increased demand that one of its “key strategies” is to make it easier for food businesses to comply with legislation and to reduce the barriers for companies or individuals seeking to enter the arena which is good news indeed.

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