Innovation is central to much of the prepared foods that are currently being manufactured in Ireland and suppliers recognise that, if they are to succeed beyond the Irish market and convince UK retailers to list an Irish product instead of indigenous manufacturers, they have to come up with something unique.
One way companies have identified to offer a USP is by embracing the latest packaging technologies in order to make them stand out from their UK counterparts.
Packaging and innovation have been key drivers for both Nature’s Best, a specialist in pre-packed salads, and organic supplier Garryvoe Foods.
Paddy O’Callaghan, managing director at Nature’s Best, began by growing beansprouts in 1987 and has been producing chilled convenience salad products since 1989.
For O’Callaghan, his background as a mechanical engineer has meant he has always been keen to embrace the latest in technology to improve his offer. By investing in state-of-the-art equipment, in terms of production methods and packaging, he has been able to develop products with a longer shelf life.
He says: “There is an amazing amount of academic research out there that can be incredibly helpful and I would like to think that we have been able to take advantage of this to constantly improve. We have the capability to deliver chilled products throughout Ireland and the UK. There are huge opportunities out there for fresh products and functional food and we are currently talking to a number of the major multiples about supplying them.”
Organic producer Garryvoe Foods, producer of the Harvest Organic brand, is also hoping its latest pack innovation could play a part in helping it make a move into the UK. Garryvoe produces a range of organic soups and sauces but Pat McGrath, managing director, realises the market for fresh soup in the UK is already well developed. As a result, the company is pushing its new organic fresh soya milk that it has developed in a biodegradable pouch.
McGrath says: “We are aware of not putting another me-too product on the market so we think this will find a gap as the only fresh organic soya milk. We are currently looking for a distributor and from there we will start taking it to the big retailers in the UK.”
Meanwhile, Richard Cullen, director at Aran Candy, producer of The Jelly Bean gourmet range, believes innovative packaging will continue to drive his brand forward.
“Our fun and interesting packs helped us secure listings with Tesco, BP and Julian Graves, and will be crucial in growing the brand,” he says.