As Ireland’s economy has continued to struggle in 2010 and 2011, Irish consumers have become increasingly focused on reducing air miles for their food and beverage purchases.
This was partly due to the National Consumer Agency encouraging consumers to reduce their environmental impact by purchasing organic and local products.
In September 2009 Irish producers across food and beverages banded together to create Love Irish Food. The organisation includes major players such as Tayto, Ballygowan, Batchelors and Barry’s Tea, with brands only able to carry the logo if at least 80% of the product’s manufacturing process takes place in Ireland and if ingredients are sourced locally where possible.
Robert Roberts Ltd, a major domestic tea producer, for example ensures that its packaging designers, cardboard suppliers, signage and point of sale suppliers, label manufacturers and warehousing companies are all Irish.
Many consumers prefer to buy Irish products, believing them to offer high quality, good value, minimal environmental impact and, perhaps most importantly, a boost for the Irish economy and ongoing employment for Irish workers. Love Irish Food has thus proved hugely successful, with 75% of members seeing sales growth following its launch and 80% consumer awareness of the initiative by 2010. Over 75% of consumers stated that they actively look for Irish-made products in 2010.
Hot drinks players take advantage
The Love Irish Food initiative inevitably attracted the leading domestic players in Irish hot drinks. All three of the leading domestic players have joined the movement, with Barry’s Tea, Campbell Bewley and Robert Roberts emphasising their Irish heritage and also their contribution to the Irish economy, particularly in the creation of employment.
Barry’s Tea notably became a figurehead of the movement, with the formation of Love Irish Food being encouraged by the company’s distribution struggles earlier in 2009. In March and April of that year, the company was delisted from Tesco supermarkets/hypermarkets as this retailer opted to focus on value and thus began to offer more lower-priced and UK-origin brands.
While Tesco subsequently relented and scaled this strategy back to an extent, this was in response to public protests, with these protests and strong media coverage providing considerable stimulus for the formation of Love Irish Food.
But price concerns continue to loom
While Irish consumers are increasingly focused on provenance they are also wary of price. A sluggish economy during the next five years and ongoing high unemployment will result in many consumers simply seeking out the cheapest possible deals. Consequently, while domestic players and multinationals with an ethical positioning are likely to benefit from these trends they will do so only if they also offer consumers affordable pricing.