71% of Irish Food Businesses are Investing in New Products – Love Irish Food

71% of Irish Food Businesses are Investing in New Products

71% of Irish Food Businesses are Investing in New Products According to 2024 Love Irish Food and Bank of Ireland SME Food Barometer

  • Four in five Irish food businesses confident about growth in the next 12 months
  • 60% of companies are focussing on investing in brand building
  • Rising input costs and inflationary pressures are biggest business threats
  • Ireland and the UK viewed as largest growth markets for Irish food businesses

Seven in ten (71%) Irish food businesses are planning to launch new products or services in the next 12 months, according to the results of the 2024 Food Barometer Survey conducted by Love Irish Food and Bank of Ireland.

The survey, which gathered responses from over 100 Irish food SMEs, signalled a positive outlook with 80% of Irish food and drink producer respondents confident in their businesses for the year ahead and predicting future growth. The biggest expansion areas are expected to be in business innovations (25%), the attraction of new customers (21%) and the development of new products (21%).

Six in ten Irish food businesses are planning to invest in enhanced brand awareness measures and cutting-edge commercial digital strategies, while over half of the companies surveyed reported production automation and operational efficiencies as key investment areas.

Despite the optimistic outlook 85% of companies cited rising input costs and inflationary pressures as the biggest threats to growth, alongside wage inflation (66%) and labour availability (55%) – with a lack of appropriate skills and high accommodation costs the top concerns when it comes to labour availability.

The survey indicated that retaining staff remains a key priority for Irish food businesses. While 59% adopt the fully onsite model, 91% of those employing a hybrid/remote working model want to keep it. With an eye on staff retention, over half of the companies surveyed are considering making changes to their training and development programmes and almost half of all respondents are considering introducing more wellbeing benefits and granting their staff pay rises. 

Finally, sustainability measures remain a top priority for Irish food businesses, with 74% of companies reported to have embedded sustainability into their overall business practises. The top areas delivering better sustainability outcomes are reduced energy consumption (84%) and the introduction of sustainable packaging (82%). Key business benefits from embedding sustainability solutions include product innovation (64%), process efficiencies (64%) and increased revenue (61%).

Kieran Rumley, Executive Director, Love Irish Food said: “In the context of significant geopolitical uncertainty it is promising to see such confidence in Irish food businesses in their growth potential, despite these producers facing challenges in the areas of inflation and labour retention. There have been noticeable developments since last year with businesses investing in sustainability measures positively impacting on input costs, such as reducing energy consumption, reduced packaging and water consumption. It is heartening to see this confidence continue as investment extends through other areas of their businesses.

“There is a great opportunity for the public to meet with our members at the upcoming Bord Bia Bloom in the Phoenix Park this June bank holiday weekend. Love Irish Food’s ‘Meet the Makers’ stand will be located in the food village at Bloom, where visitors will get the chance to meet and engage with a cross section of 31 Love Irish Food producers.”

Lucy Ryan, Head of Food & Beverage Sector, Bank of Ireland said:Whilst there are ongoing challenges being faced in the sector it is encouraging to see such positivity amongst Irish food producers in the survey responses. Product innovation, developing new markets and enhanced staff retention practises are clearly priority areas, and I am also delighted to see companies placing an emphasis on implementing targeted sustainability measures.

“Bank of Ireland is the first Irish bank to set scientifically validated targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and remains on-track to meet our sustainable-finance target of €15bn by 2025. Irish food producers are keenly aware of both the environmental benefits and to their own bottom line by implementing ongoing sustainability measures, and we will continue to provide them with meaningful supports to help them thrive in this area.”