What if there was a Silicon Valley for Irish food? What if there was a region considered to be the food development capital of Ireland - a home to many of the most advanced and innovative producers and manufacturers exporting to multi-million euro (and dollar) markets?
What if the idea was, in fact, reality? What if Silicon Valley was the Boyne Valley and Navan it’s Palo Alto?
Well, it’s happening, and happening at incredible pace with local food firms penning contracts that will make them global players. The doors to once unattainable global food markets are being kicked wide open with the work being undertaken by the Boyne Valley Food Innovation District.
The sole aim of (BVFID) is to support Irish indigenous food companies by providing them with direct access to real commercial opportunities in global food markets such as China, south east Asia and Scandinavia.
These opportunities are not just ‘introductions’ or ‘tyre-kicking’ exercises but contract-ready, established trade channels, channels that have been painstakingly nurtured and secured over the last five years by the BVFID and its strategic partners.
One such company about to see the fruits of that labour is Ashbourne-based health food business Superlife, which creates superfood blends to make eating ‘healthy, convenient and user friendly’.
Producing breakfast toppings and smoothie mixes as well as vegan consumer products, the 2011-established company has just signed a multi-million euro deal to supply product to Scandinavian supplier Orkla.
To give the scale of the deal some context, Orkla employs over 18,000 people supplying branded goods to the grocery, retail, pharmacy and bakery sectors across Scandinavia and last year enjoyed a 4bn turnover.
Under this deal, Orkla has agreed to work with Superlife distributing it’s range across the Scandinavian grocery market – into Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.
In order to achieve the relevant scale to fulfil the contract, Epicom Foods - based in Meath Enterprise Centre and employing 85 people locally and 325 nationally - will help produce that range of foods.
Epicom are one of the key partners in BVFID and already distribute to global markets having spent the last five years building up their own Silk Road routes.
“Epicom has been blending our products from the very beginning and supported and believed in us from the start,” says Superlife co-founder Talya Lewin who runs the company with partner and Moneyhill native Diarmuid Russell.
“Over the last 6 years we have gradually expanded to other markets besides Ireland: a little in the UK, Bali, Portugal and the Czech Republic, but still stayed small. We are extremely excited about this contract in Scandinavia. It is a huge leap on every level.
“We are hoping to bring ‘Have a Superlife’, healthy eating and the use of superfoods into the mainstream house holds in the four Scandinavia countries.”
Under the guidance of CEO John Cunningham, Epicom has championed the concept of scaling food companies into global markets, sharing their experience and knowledge of having established trade routes into China, south east Asia and Scandinavia over the past five years.
Now these channels are looking for more quality Irish food products and Epicom, in conjunction with the BVFID can deliver them.
“We have found out the hard way that developing new markets is extremely difficult and expensive but Epicom Food are committed to working with BVFID to ensure that other Irish foods SME’s don’t necessarily have to experience the same pain.
“Everybody doesn’t need to drive into the same potholes in order to learn from the experience. We believe that we have a social responsibility to share our learnings and support projects such as the BVFID that seek to improve regional economic development and social prosperity,” says Cunningham.
Understandably such levels of scale and rapid growth are not for the faint-hearted or the humble start-up. Through the tried and tested channels of trade, established through years of patient Irish diplomacy, charm, determination and producing foods of the highest quality, the BVFID is looking at many more high-value international deals being secured in the near future.
Gary O’Meara, General Manager at Meath Enterprise explains how the BVFID activity has happened at an “astounding pace”.
“Breaking into international markets is traditionally a painful, time-consuming, complex process and can be very off-putting for indigenous food producers but our structure cut through this, provided a network of expertise and accelerated the process. This is just the first announcement but there will be more to come for companies within the Boyne Valley Food Innovation District.”
The BVFID boasts an impressive board of leading and local entrepreneurs including Ray Coyle of Tayto Park, Owen Brennan of Devenish, Larry Murrin of Dawn Farm Foods as well as members from universities, research institutes and relevant state agencies.
For more information see meathenterprise.ie