Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Flying the flag for Irish food and drink in the US

Tim Herlihy always wanted to work in the Irish food industry but he never imagined he would be located in the United States developing business opportunities for Irish Whiskey.

Wed, Feb 29, 2012, 01:00


Tim Herlihy always wanted to work in the Irish food industry but he never imagined he would be located in the United States developing business opportunities for Irish Whiskey.

Tim Herlihy

I grew up in Termonfeckin, Co. Louth, where my parents own and run an egg farm called Belview Eggs.  I’ve helped out on the farm for as long as I can remember; from feeding chickens, to packaging eggs; to delivering them to shops I’ve done it all. I studied commerce in UCD which I loved but I was always more drawn to the sales and marketing aspects of the course as opposed to business and accounting. It was no surprise that my first job out of college was in sales and business management for Danone.

My background has always been in the food industry so I think it’s fair to say that I always knew that I would continue to work in that sector. I had been with Danone for two years when I heard the ad on the radio for the Bord Bia Fellowship in association with UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. It was an ideal opportunity for me. I’d study for a MSc. International Marketing Practice and I’d have the opportunity to travel and take part in business development projects abroad.  I jumped at the chance to apply, never thinking that I would be one of the 25 selected.  The application process was tough, with numerous interviews and presentations but it prepared me for the course work that lay ahead.

For my placement, I travelled to America where I worked with Cooley Distillery. Before then my experience was largely within the food sector and the closest I’d ever come to whiskey was maybe a glass a year! I immersed myself completely into the work and found myself in the middle of major business development projects for the Irish food industry in the US. The work was intense and definitely not easy but I loved it and I really put my all into it. I definitely got a front seat view of the food and drinks sector across Ireland and America and discovered first-hand the business development opportunities between the two countries.

I completed the course in 2010 and I was home for about a year when I heard that Tullamore Dew was looking for an Irish brand ambassador to work in America. Again, it seemed to be a long shot but through my work with Cooley Distillery and the Fellowship programme I was picked to be their guy in the States.  By October 2011 I was packing my bags again and off to New York, where I’m based now. As a Brand Ambassador, I travel the country looking for, and developing, business opportunities for Tullamore Dew. My job is definitely my favourite part of living abroad. I represent an Irish company in a foreign market where exports are continuing to grow each year. The Irish drinks industry is definitely a positive factor in terms of future economic growth and it’s great to be a part of that.

Although my job is great and I definitely have a great life here in the States, I do miss home. I think most Irish people do. The things I miss most from Ireland are the food and the people. You just can’t beat Irish fresh fruit and veg. After that it’s definitely the people. Irish people understand each other much better and there is a general sense of humour and banter that I think can fall on deaf ears here sometimes.  I’m lucky that with the nature of my job I can come home more often than others. But there is a huge Irish network over here. No matter what city or state you’re in, you’re sure to find an Irish community and everyone is very welcoming and helpful which eases the difficulties of moving to a new place a bit. I think emigration to America from Ireland can be tough for people and there are the added pressures of work permits and visas, so the support of other people from home definitely helps.

For the most part, I’ve made friends here, through work and at home in New York. A lot of my friends have emigrated but they have moved to Australia or New Zealand, nobody has followed me to America…yet.

I would urge anybody who has an interest in working abroad in sales and marketing to consider applying for the Bord Bia Fellowship. It has changed my career, and by extension my life, and I couldn’t be happier.

The closing date for applications for the Bord Bia Marketing Fellowship at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School is Monday 5th March at 9am and further details are available on