2020 was the year of the pivot, the pirouette, the tailspin, and 2021 looks like it's going to be more of the same. With so many people in the food and drink industry out of work or faced with on and off employment, we've seen a whole new level of creativity this year, from pop up takeaways to food trucks, bottled cocktails to brand new condiments, borne out of boredom-filled bars and kitchens, so this year's Food Works programme couldn't be coming at a better time.
The initiative, set up by Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and Teagasc, supports innovative Irish food businesses and helps bring their products to global markets, so if your side (or full-time) hustle has been doing well but you're ready to go to the next level, get your application in before Friday 29th January. So far they've helped over 90 Irish food entrepreneurs scale their business, including some ATF favourites like Clinton's crisps, Bean and Goose chocolate, vegan meal company FIID, Wicklow Wolf beer, Kilbeggan Oats and Beekon Batches.
The programme is worth over €50,000, with access to feasibility grant funding of up to €35,000 for each company. Food Works will provide applicants with the support they need to develop their early stage product into an investment ready food and drink product with international potential, along with business supports including consumer market research, research & development expertise, investor ready business plan development, technical advice and commercial viability planning.
Participants in last year's programme include Beekon Batches, The Proper Dairy Company, Soothing Solutions, Vegan Sandwich Co and Brady’s Coffee Company, and past participants say it totally transformed their business.
"Two years on and we've achieved milestones beyond what I could have imagined for a small Irish startup. "We went from a team of 1 to 7, hit seven figures in retail sales in our first year with all of Ireland's key retailers and expanded internationally ... I can't stress enough the positive impact Food Works had on me as an entrepreneur as well as for fiid and would recommend it for anyone with ambitious goals to disrupt the food industry not just in Ireland but internationally." Shane Ryan, FIID
"If you are truly serious about succeeding with your food or beverage venture, Food Works is a must. From Financial, Marketing, Strategy, Commercial, Category, RTM, Production, Export, Personal Development, you name it, it’s provided. There was not one area of our business that wasn’t affected by this program." Karen O'Neill, Beekon Batches
“This hands on programme gave us peer to peer practical, mentored and supported guidance to enable us to grow our business, and gave us the confidence to see its potential.” Sean Clinton, Clinton's Crisps.
With everything happening at the moment the team at Food Works think 2021 could be the most interesting year yet, with Nicola Nic Pháidín from Enterprise Ireland saying, “The challenges now facing business owners have never been greater and we are here to support and guide Irish food and drink entrepreneurs to scale their businesses and become successful brands. Often in times of crisis comes creativity and this year we are looking for businesses that are demonstrating innovation and resilience despite the impact of Covid-19.”
If this sounds like you (or someone you know), applications can be submitted here until 17:00 on Friday 29th January. 2020 may have been a write off, but 2021 could be the year you take lemons and make internationally successful lemonade.
This article is in partnership with Food Works, an initiative from Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and Teagasc to help Irish food and drink business scale and reach international markets. Find out more about the Food Works programme on their website.