Irish food companies were recognised at the “Oscars” of the sector yesterday evening, held to underpin growth and competitiveness and elevate the industry’s reputation at home and abroad.
This year Bord Bia recognised companies across eight categories – exporting, branding, entrepreneurial, consumer insight, success at home, sustainability, innovation and digital marketing – and the awards were judged by a host of industry experts including David Cotter, country manager, Procter & Gamble Ireland, Dr Gordon Campbell, managing director Spar International, and Martina McDonnell, head of SMB marketing, Facebook EMEA.
For Aidan Cotter, chief executive, Bord Bia, the event is about recognising the achievements and ongoing progress of the sector.
“The awards highlight the talent, imagination and sheer professionalism that is at the heart of the industry’s current success and that will secure its continued growth and expansion,” he said.
Sustainability was at the heart of the awards, and speaking at the event, Simon Coveney, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, said it was encouraging that more than 85 per cent of total Irish food and drink exports "are now coming from companies that are fully verified members of Origin Green, Bord Bia's sustainability programme".
The overall Sustainability Award went to performance nutrition and ingredients group Glanbia. Judges noted that the agrifood company was "in a league of its own, with a great story to tell". Glanbia has ambitious goals, with sustainability targets across its five manufacturing plants, and is committed to auditing its entire milk supply base to improve sustainability by early 2016.
But it wasn’t the only company recognised in this category.
"With the high calibre and large number of entries in the category, it was deemed necessary to recognise the efforts of two companies. Sustainability is now an established driver for the industry in terms of how it conducts business," Mr Cotter said, and so Donegal fish business Island Seafoods was the second recipient, due to the "extraordinary" work it had undertaken to improve sustainability, something which had surprised the judges given the company's size. Sustainability is reflected in all areas of Island Seafoods' business, from world-class water treatment and waste procedures to advanced energy management.
Glanbia also won the top branding prize for its “Playground of Life” campaign which boosted sales of its Avonmore Super Milk product by 4 per cent. Judges recognised the detailed, in-depth research the milk producer had carried out to create a premier brand position.
Successfully using consumer insights to develop its new high protein Greek Yogurt saw Glenisk scoop the Consumer Insight Award, with judges noting that the company went to "huge lengths" to get a deeper understanding of its customers. They also managed to identify new usage occasions – not an easy task in the yogurt category, judges said.
Tapping into themes of Irishness, nostalgia and colloquial humour, Britvic Ireland was awarded the Digital Marketing Award for its #BestBits campaign, which sought to boost awareness and sales of Club Orange. The campaign reached more than 5.3 million influencers through online/PR mentions, and pushing up sales by almost 10 per cent.
For an Irish food company, capturing a niche in the global food market is key, and such is Donegal-based food company Gallagher’s Bakery success in doing so, that it received the top prize in two categories: Exports and Entrepreneurial.
As judges noted, the company is a story of turning around an enterprise which faced challenges, adding that its success today is “richly deserved”.
The entrepreneurial company, which suffered a sizeable setback during the downturn, has since rebounded, having first eyed an opportunity in the gluten-free market in 2012. It has successfully developed gluten-free products which sell across Canada, the US, Australia and the UK, and exports account for more than 70 per cent of the company's turnover.
Gaining traction in the increasingly competitive food market is difficult, but taking an innovative approach can pay dividends. Consider the example of Nobó (no cow), a Dublin-based food company, which won in the Innovation category. Recognising the appeal of ice-cream and the growing number of people who are dairy intolerant, the company developed Frozen Goodness, the world’s first ice cream alternative made from avocado and coconut milk and sweetened with pure honey. Paying tribute to the company’s founders as a “class act who got all the basics right”, the judges said that Nobó has a “strong vision for future development”.
Bottled water manufacturer Celtic Pure took the Success at Home award, steadily growing its sales in Ireland through investment in manufacturing facilities. Just 15 years ago it ran all its operations from a garage – now Celitc Pure has the capacity to produce 100 million bottles of water a year. For this, the judges said that the company was a "great Irish success story".