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Food and Drink Achieving Double-Digit Growth in Asia

Asian markets are very important to Irish food and drink companies as they are growing rapidly – as chief executive of Bord Bia Aidan Cotter notes, exports to the region climbed 26pc in 2012 to reach €467m. "When you consider that overall Irish food and drink exports went up by 2pc to reach over €9bn in 2012, you can imagine how important the growth rates in Asia are," he says. 

"The main components for Ireland in Asia are dairy ingredients, pig meat and seafood. There are growing middle classes throughout Asia as well as a shift in dietary habits towards more protein-based products, which Ireland has its own strengths in. There is a good alignment in terms of what the region needs and what Ireland can provide."

Focusing on individual markets, within the total export figure to the region China is by far the largest, reaching around €259m in 2012, 39pc up on 2010. "In fact, total food exports to Asia are 75pc higher than in 2010, with markets such as Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Vietnam and Thailand all showing double-digit growth for Irish food and drink exporters," notes Cotter. Growth has been particularly strong for Irish food and drink over the past two years because of a greater focus by companies on Asian markets in terms of a greater investment of resources.

Among Bord Bia's key initiatives this year will be the continued development of its sustainability programme Origin Green, which Cotter says will be important in Asia. Since launching in June 2012, some 164 companies accounting for almost 60pc of Irish food and drink exports have signed up to the programme. Bord Bia announced plans in January to recruit 10 new 'Global Ambassadors' as part of Origin Green, with South East Asia and India two of the areas to be targeted. Cotter says for first time exporters the sheer scale of the Asian region can sometimes be quite intimidating, especially for smaller companies. One of the ways Bord Bia addressed this issue was to launch the Ireland China Food Hub and the Ireland-China Food Network last year.

The network will bring together members of the diaspora based in China, while the food hub is a shared office facility for Irish food and drink exporters targeting the Chinese market. "There are six companies from the meat and seafood sectors initially working together to share resources and market knowledge with a view to increasing their presence in the market. We are optimistic about the attractiveness of this way of growing Irish companies' business in Asia generally," Cotter explains.

Bord Bia has a programme of research ongoing in the region with the aim of identifying opportunities for Irish companies. For example, last year, it carried out ethnographic research in South Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia which involved researchers living in people's homes to see how they ate and shopped during the day.

Source: Business and Leadership - Food and Drink Achieving Double-Digit Growth in Asia