Bord Bia has operated an extensive Small Business Programme since 1996. The range of measures it has provided includes information services, market research and marketing competency development, promotion of the speciality sector for sales growth and the positioning of Ireland — the Food Island through trade fairs, co-ordination of buyer visits, hosting specialist foods including International Speciality Food Symposia, most recently in Kilmainham in 2006 and the speciality food presence on Ryder Cup menus, co-ordinating operational support of farmers' markets, internet selling and farm shop and box schemes, and the management of retail promotions in Ireland and Britain for speciality and organic foods as well as extensive consumer public relations targeting print and broadcast media in Ireland and Britain.
These services have been underpinned by a marketing finance programme providing direct financial support for the marketing development activities of small firms and medium-sized enterprises in the food, drink, and horticulture sectors. An industry led approach has been adopted through ongoing consultation with the TASTE Council, a representative group of the small and speciality food supply chain in Ireland and Britain.
The sector is growing at 10% per annum fuelled by consumer market drivers of health and well being, quality, provenance, authenticity and taste. While this offers growth potential for products meeting these requirements, commercial challenges however, exist for small food business owner/managers in accessing the opportunities afforded by rapidly changing food markets. Managing and controlling food business growth and development for success is a key challenge requiring access to timely and necessary market knowledge and information and an understanding and management of distribution in line with the small food firm's stage of development and aspiration for growth.
In response to these challenges Bord Bia has now established a Centre of Excellence for Small Food Business, designed to guide Bord Bia services to support the commercial growth potential of this sector. A new suite of services is being introduced for small businesses and 2007 will see the launch of a new resource centre for owner/managers of small food firms allowing them access to knowledge and expertise for market development and growth. Broader national and international marketing support will also be provided for specialist food in recognition of its potential as an added value business opportunity for the rural economy and contribution to the image and positioning of Ireland — the Food Island.
The budget allocated by An Bord Bia to these small business services including the marketing finance programme in 2007 is €1,213,000 compared with €819,000 in 2006.