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Bord Bia encourages Ireland’s food industry to ‘Think Digital’

New Bord Bia services unveiled to help businesses navigate e-commerce platforms

Date: 08/02/2021

Bord Bia has launched a comprehensive new suite of digital services under its Think Digital programme to support Ireland’s food, drink and horticulture sectors as they continue to face the severe and ongoing impacts of Covid-19 and the challenges of post-Brexit trading. The new services have been designed with a focus on unlocking the e-commerce potential within the sector to deliver much needed growth.

A new online retailing study* from Bord Bia shows that in the three years since 2017, online shopping has grown by 75%. In the next three years to 2023, this is forecast to grow by a further 55% (source: Statista). Covid-19 has led to a profound shift in the adoption of online grocery shopping, and is continuing to grow as physical distancing restrictions remain in place. Some 34% of Irish consumers who bought their groceries online in 2020 were ‘first-timers’, while 33% of EU online grocery shoppers only started in the past six months. The Bord Bia report also showed that whilst groceries traditionally trail other categories in transitioning to online, it is now the fastest-growing category.

In addition to exploring online retail habits, Bord Bia was particularly focused on identifying opportunities for selling Irish meat and seafood online. Although approximately 94% of the EU population eat meat and / or seafood, the study highlighted that only 56% buy those products online. However, 44% of online grocery shoppers who are currently not buying meat online are open to buying beef online, and 54% of online shoppers who are currently not buying seafood online are open to it, which suggests untapped potential for both sectors.

Adam Baker, Client Capability Manager at Bord Bia, believes the time has come for Ireland’s food sector to become digital adopters. “Diversification into new markets has been a crucial component for growth across the food industry over the last decade. Today, the growth in online shopping and grocery e-commerce offers our sector another growing, and potentially very valuable, alternative route to market. Through this new Think Digital programme, Bord Bia want to ensure that Ireland’s food industry has the requisite skills and knowledge it needs to successfully compete in a digital world.”

“In addition to elevating the digital capabilities of the sector, we will be focusing on how to support and prepare companies to successfully sell on some of the world’s leading online marketplaces such as Amazon, Ocado, Walmart and Alibaba to name but a few. We are working directly with these companies to develop bespoke ‘How To’ guidelines for the Irish food industry, enabling them to compete at a global scale.”

The new services will be primarily provided through a series of virtual workshops, webinars and self-service digital marketing guidebooks. According to Bord Bia, companies can also apply for bespoke, one-to-one digital mentoring, digital project management and branding supports. One such company that Bord Bia has been working with is Atlantis of Kilmore Quay, a family run seafood company based in Wexford.

The company was established 25 years ago, and to date the business model has been predominantly focused on supplying seafood to hotels, restaurants and shops. Like many food businesses, the pandemic has had a significant impact on Atlantis’ traditional sales channels. John Kenny, Director said “Covid-19, and in particular the closure of foodservice and shops, reduced our turnover by over 60%. At a time of crisis, we quickly identified a new niche business opportunity in home deliveries of fresh fish to local customers in Wexford. Based on the success of this local pilot initiative, we could see the opportunity to sell direct to consumers on a national scale. We have been working with Bord Bia on a digital transformation for over six months now to help us prepare for what was essentially a new business. Bord Bia provided us with invaluable insight and guidance, which has ultimately helped us to create our new brand identity and a new e-commerce website which is going live this week.”

“Although we remain 100% committed to our trade customers, and we continue to deliver to those customers who are still trading, we are excited and encouraged by this new opportunity. We look forward to the day when restaurants and shops reopen, but we also expect e-commerce will become an increasingly important sales channel for our business.”

Bord Bia is encouraging all companies in the food, drink and horticulture sectors to register for ‘Think Digital’ services on www.bordbia.ie or for further information on available supports, email thinkdigital@bordbia.ie



*Bord Bia Thinking House Study: Selling Ireland’s Meat and Seafood in Online Grocery

Bord Bia partnered with Jump! to complete the research which included interviews with a range of global online industry players and experts and a quantitative study (N=3,000) across UK, France, Sweden to quantify & validate findings, whilst also exploring potential growth territories.


Key Highlights:


A growing opportunity

While online grocery shopping has seen significant growth during Covid-19, online grocery shopping habits are still being formed, with average online spend significantly below overall monthly grocery spend. Approx. 94% of the population eat meat/seafood (EU), yet our study highlights that only 56% report buying meat and/or seafood online. Further, 44% of online grocery shoppers who are currently not buying meat online are open to buying beef on line and 54% of online shoppers who are currently not buying seafood online are open to it, which suggests untapped potential for both sectors.


Addressing the sensory

Freshness, quality and being able to see the actual product itself are key barriers to purchase online with quality, taste and visual perceptions naturally being superior in store. Key to overcoming this is to make the online experience as multisensory as possible and bringing the shopping experience to life through the use of high quality and close up visuals of raw and cooked food. The integration of butcher and fish monger advice, photos and videos again brings consumers “closer” to the retail experience and would also help inspire confidence.


The power of fresh

There is a time-lag between purchase and delivery which creates a disconnect, and further detracts confidence in the product quality. As well as powerful “fresh” visuals, highlighting certifications and consideration for innovations for e.g. special sealed packs and temperature controlled mechanisms are all considered potential motivators to purchase with 55% of respondents considering temperature controlled bags or boxes as a top ranked feature that could connect with consumers and 38% of respondents considering certifications for eg organic, cruelty free as another top ranked feature that could win. Speed of retailer delivery could also be a distinct win here as a growing USP amongst retailers with some trialling up to 30 minute deliveries.


To whom we trust

Key to winning trust is to dial up brand, Irishness and good farming and fishing credentials. Online, people need shortcuts to trusted products for eg brands with 37% of OGS (online grocery shoppers) choosing a trusted brand as the top factor for determining which meat or seafood to buy online. Country of origin is also an asset with 38% of people selecting country of origin as the top factor in determining level of trust in meat or seafood purchases online. Irishness is also seen as an asset with over 1 in 3 preferring to buy Irish meat and/or seafood over products from other countries online; UK/FR especially strong here.


The nudge factor

The online shopper is a smart shopper who seeks out deals and budgeting opportunities. The research highlights some nudges with impact – which would encourage people to “buy more”: buy one get half price coat (75%), the herd effect-five star ratings based on shopper reviews (73%), seasonal products available for a limited time only (71%).


Becoming a habit

As many consumers are new to online and indeed experimenting with different stores, finding ways to put shoppers on “autopilot” is key. Being part of a retailers subscription model and/or reward systems, being at the top of the search list, or listed in key recipes are all ways to entice repeat purchase.


The Future is now

The study also addresses a number of online shopping futures and emerging innovations around digital shopping, AR, virtual entertainment and more automated experiences which are all likely to become online shopping norms as people live in an ever growing hyper connected world.