Enterprise Ireland saw exports in the Food and Sustainability sector increase by 23% in 2022, reaching €16.2 billion.
This is the highest-ever level of growth for Enterprise Ireland-supported companies in the sector, which accounted for 50% of exports by Enterprise Ireland-supported companies in 2022.
The figures were highlighted last week as more than 200 senior leaders from the Food sector, and key industry stakeholders attended Enterprise Ireland’s flagship Food Innovation Summit, which took place on 31 May, in Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Cork. The event was the first dedicated Food Innovation Summit to take place in Ireland and will turn the spotlight on the innovation capability within the Irish food industry and the strength of Ireland’s food research ecosystem.
Food and Sustainability sector companies now account for 29% of total employment in Enterprise Ireland-supported companies. In 2022, 63,858 people were employed in companies that Enterprise Ireland supports in the Food and Sustainability sector – an increase of 3% on 2021 figures.
These companies spent €209 million in R&D activities in 2022. 170 companies operating in the sector spent €100,000 or more on R&D activities in 2022.
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Simon Coveney T.D., said: “Irish food businesses are a key contributor to the Irish economy, supporting thousands of jobs, and delivering sustainable prosperity throughout Ireland. The sustainable growth of the Food sector in Ireland hinges on increased investment in innovation, and the Government is committed to assisting Irish businesses in that vision.
“The global food system requires innovative and out-of-the-box solutions to address food security challenges and climate change. New technologies and new approaches to international competitiveness are required that place a greater emphasis on innovative, flexible responses to rapidly changing market demands. As a leader in sustainable food production and safe food excellence, Ireland is delivering major strides in food innovation and is well-placed to assess global food security challenges.”
Enterprise Ireland CEO Leo Clancy said:“The significant 2022 export results for the sector are a testament to the innovation and resilience of the Irish food industry. While the record year-on-year increase in exports for the sector is influenced by inflation, most notably in the dairy industry, these very positive results demonstrate the continued strength of Irish food products and services in global markets.
“Increased investment in innovation is essential for the continued and sustainable growth of the sector in an increasingly competitive global market. Today’s event aims to raise awareness among the Irish food industry of the importance of investing in innovation to strengthen productivity and achieve and sustain competitive advantage in global markets.”
Sustainability is a key theme for the event, with panel discussions on the topics of healthy nutrition and sustainable food manufacturing taking place with contributions from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Teagasc. The audience also heard from Jim Bergin, CEO, Tirlán on the role of innovation in the company’s international growth and from international speaker Food Futurologist Dr Morgaine Gaye on the trends that will shape the food and drink industry into the future.
Innovative Food Solutions
Enterprise Ireland were also hosting an inaugural Food and Drink Start-Up event last week co-located and run concurrently in Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Cork, entitled ‘Scaling Through Innovation’. More than 100 delegates attended the event which aims to inform and inspire current and future food and drink start-up companies through a focus on innovation and sustainability. Panel discussions on the future of the sector, scaling, exporting, investment and retailing took place throughout the day, with contributions from global leading Kerry Group, the Good Food Institute, Irish-based VCs, retail/ food service buyers, and key stakeholders including Teagasc and Bord Bia.
Speaking about the Food and Drink Start Up event, Enterprise Ireland CEO Leo Clancy added:“Enterprise Ireland is committed to supporting the growth and development of the next generation of scalable, export driven Irish food and drink businesses founded on world-class innovation and productivity. Over the past decade, Enterprise Ireland has invested more than €10 million in High Potential Start Up (HPSU) companies operating in the food and drink sector.
In 2022, Enterprise Ireland invested in six High-Potential Start-Ups operating in the sector – 66 percent of which were women-led, further underlining our strategy to increase the participation of women in entrepreneurship and business leadership. We’re delighted to host today’s Scaling Through Innovation event for food and drink start-ups, which is an excellent opportunity for entrepreneurs and established businesses to network, gain valuable insight and meet with industry experts.”