Irish beef producers this week began preparations in earnest for life after the Over Thirty Months Scheme, with the launch of a three-year, E10m campaign designed to build beef sales across Europe.
The Irish food board, Bord Bia, hopes the drive will establish Irish beef as a distinct brand in consumers’ minds and generate extra sales to offset the loss of business expected when older British beef is allowed back into the food chain.
The campaign, unveiled on Wednesday by Ireland’s minister for agriculture and food, Mary Coughlan, will run across nine countries, including the UK and Ireland but also the Netherlands, Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, Germany and the Czech
Republic. Thirty supermarket groups, boasting a combined footfall of 40 million people a week and a store count of 8,000, will be participating in the initiative, which will centre around on-pack promotions tailored to appeal to each country’s consumers. This year, it will run from now until the end of November.
The drive has its roots in the pragmatic acceptance by Irish beef producers that they face losing a highly significant market once the UK lifts the Over Thirty Months rule.
Its implementation was a bonanza for Irish farmers, whose beef filled the gap left by the disappearance of older British beef from the market. Beef exports were worth E1.4bn to Ireland’s economy in 2004, with 55% of export volumes - or 269,000 tonnes - sent to the UK.
Bord Bia says it will have to find new markets outside the UK for up to 70,000 tonnes of Irish beef once OTMS is abolished.
Bord Bia chief executive Aidan Cotter said he was convinced on-pack promotions would boost sales. “In a pilot promotion, 81% of British purchasers reported that they chose the Irish Beef pack because of the promotion.”
Richard Clarke