Food Firms To Benefit From Cross-Border  Joint Venture

Food companies in Northern Ireland will be helped to boost sales, including exports, following a strategic alliance between Invest Northern Ireland and An Bord Bia, the Republic of Ireland’s food marketing agency, signed today in Belfast.

The agreement to co-ordinate activities, signed by Ian Murphy, Invest NI’s Managing Director of Clients and Entrepreneurship, and Muiris Kennedy, Bord Bia’s Director of Marketing and Client Services, formalises longstanding co-operation between the two bodies in promoting food from the island of Ireland.

Among the measures in the cross-border link-up are:

-A joint promotional campaign on regional foods;

-Participation in local food festivals;  

-A programme of joint food and tourism initiatives;

-Shared stand costs at selected international trade shows and joint participation at key events;

-Joint market research programmes focusing on changing consumer behaviour to pinpoint market opportunities;

-A joint ‘meet the buyer’ programme in key markets;

-Training programmes to enhance the capability of key personnel to interpret/exploit findings from the market intelligence programme; and

-Co-ordinated funding arrangements to share the costs of joint programmes.

Invest NI and Bord Bia have agreed on an organisational structure to support the initiative that will include an agreed three-year plan, regular quarterly meetings between the two bodies and the assignment of senior managers and other staff to drive the new approach.

Invest NI has already established a separate Food Division and created a dedicated Food Team within its Trade division. Both are implementing the ‘Fit for Market’ food strategy - launched in November 2004 - that has been agreed with the industry and endorsed by the Ministers responsible for the departments for Enterprise, Trade and Investment and Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland.

Dedicated trade advisers have also been appointed by Invest NI in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland to help Northern Ireland companies to identify and exploit market opportunities.

Commenting on the joint initiative, Ian Murphy of Invest NI said: “Food is one of only two priority sectors within Invest NI, a position which demonstrates the importance accorded to development of this industry and enables us to concentrate resources to accelerate its growth through financial assistance and other practical support in areas such as innovation, business improvement and marketing.

“This strategic agreement is a very significant extension of the relationship that has developed between Invest NI and Bord Bia over many years. It creates a coherent structure that will enable us to work even closer on an agreed programme of measures for the benefit of our clients. It is, furthermore, in line with a ‘Fit for Market’ recommendation for closer cross-border co-operation,” he added.

Muiris Kennedy of Bord Bia said: “This is a logical expansion of our relationship with Invest NI and one that also makes sound business sense. By co-ordinating activities and sharing knowledge, experience and resources we can maximise the business potential of our food companies both within Ireland and overseas and enhance the global reputation of Ireland as ‘The Food Island’, an identity that underpins Bord Bia’s growth strategy.

“We can help our companies with the market information and the practical support that will enable them to develop the innovative and natural products being demanded increasingly by consumers in Ireland and further afield,” Mr Kennedy added.