Bord BiaBord Bia today announced a new financial support, entitled the 'Step Change Programme', for small food, drink and horticulture businesses. The details of the €400,000 fund were shared with over 170 small businesses gathered in Dublin today for Bord Bia's fifth annual Small Business Open Day. The grant scheme is aimed at companies, with a turnover between €100,000 and €5 million, embarking on a new project to take their business to the next level. In 2015, Bord Bia expects the 'Step Change Programme' will benefit at least eight high potential Irish businesses with individual grants of up to €50,000.

 Opening today's conference the Minister of the State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Minister Tom Hayes told delegates "Ireland needs entrepreneurs. We have to have risk takers who will venture out and set up businesses that directly contribute to economic recovery. Your company's growth underpins the wider local community and the image of Ireland as a provider of high quality, innovative and sustainable food and drink excellence. Bord Bia and the support agencies are on hand not just today but through your various stages of growth."

Tara McCarthy, Bord Bia's Director of Food and Beverages added, "This new enhanced grants programme has been designed to assist progressive small food, drink and horticulture companies to fund a significant project that will positively impact the company's growth. Applicants must demonstrate new, innovative developments and activities, which will involve a considerable departure for the company, for example, a product launch on a new export market, establishing a new route to market or launching a new brand range."

Bord Bia's existing financial programme, Marketing Assistance Programme, which provided 186 companies with a total of €976,000 in marketing grant aid in 2014, will operate as normal. The closing date for receipt of applications for both the financial programmes is Friday, 6th February 2015. For more information, visit www.bordbiavantage.ie .

Small Businesses Savour Success

Delegates also heard how the artisan food sector in Ireland is continuing to demonstrate strong growth and the prospects remain positive for the year ahead. According to Bord Bia's recent food industry survey (December 2014), over three quarters (78%) of small businesses are optimistic and expect turnover and sales to increase in 2015, while over 50% of those surveyed expect exports to grow this year.

Conference Overview

At the event themed 'Optimize the Opportunity', Bord Bia provided information on the range of programmes and facilities available to companies and updated the industry on the planned activities for the year ahead. The new Vantage website (www.bordbiavantage.ie) was also unveiled providing a dedicated resource for small food and drink producers built around the pillars of market information, insight and innovation, business development, export and events. Content is aimed at those starting and growing a food business in Ireland and overseas and provides valuable signposting for start-ups, category overviews and consumer insights as well as details for all of Bord Bia's supports and services for small producers.

David Berry, Kantar Worldpanel presented on the Irish and UK retail landscape and category trends. He noted that Irish consumer sentiment neared an eight year high in December 2014, while pointing out that food and drink businesses have 405 million occasions to target consumers with 1.6 million shoppers spending €104 per week on 58 items. Liam Casey and Ryan McDonnell, directors of Lidl, afforded an insight into the retailer's operations and how it is working with small businesses. Lidl currently work with over 200 Irish suppliers leading to a €300 million turnover from its Irish supply base.

Andrea Coffey, Online Media Consultant with Google and Tom Larkin of Elivar, a new Irish sports nutrition brand, highlighted the success of the inaugural 'Digital Food Hub'. Launched in 2014, Bord Bia in partnership with Google Ireland coordinated the innovative training programme to help Irish food businesses to maximize their online presence and sales. Some 21 Irish companies participated in the first programme which included workshops, training modules and one-to-one mentoring delivered by Google digital experts at its European headquarters in Dublin. Recruitment will commence before the end of this month for the second programme, with the course due to commence in early March.

Professor Damien McLoughlin, Michael Smurfit School of Business, UCD delivered an interactive session critiquing strategic business issues experienced by growing food companies. Padraig Brennan, Senior Business Analyst, Bord Bia, alongside Patrick Rooney of Derrycamma Farm, highlighted the business benefits of Origin Green, the Irish food and drink industry's sustainability development programme. There was also a showcase of services on offer from other support agencies including the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Local Enterprise Offices, Enterprise Ireland and Teagasc.

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