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Bord Bia to host major virtual trade fair to support sector most exposed by Brexit

Over 500 virtual trade meetings set for €2.5bn Prepared Consumer Foods sector in large scale virtual trade fair as UK market post-Brexit declines reach €28 million

Date: 11/04/2021

This week, Bord Bia and over 50 Irish prepared consumer food companies, ranging from large scale manufacturers to family businesses, will host over 500 virtual trade meetings with buyers from key export markets including the United Arab Emirates, US and Europe (France, Belgium, Sweden, The Netherlands and Germany). The Prepared Consumer Foods Virtual Sourcing Fair, which takes place from April 13th-19th, is a central component of a new year-long Bord Bia programme of activity specifically developed to support the €2.5 billion Prepared Consumer Foods sector. With annual exports to the UK accounting for approximately 70% of total exports, the Prepared Consumer Foods sector is the most reliant on the UK market and carries a significant Brexit exposure.

The full and first tangible impact of this exposure was highlighted just one month into post-Brexit trading, with year-on-year PCF exports to the UK decreasing by -19% (€28 million) in January 2021*. The significant reduction in exports to the UK was also an indicator of the extent of forward shipping and stock building in anticipation of Brexit implementation on 31st December 2020. 

In preparation for the reality of post-Brexit trading, Bord Bia has undertaken extensive work with the hundreds of businesses in the PCF sector over the past four years to develop a global market diversification and trade engagement programme. Last month, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D., and Minister of State for New Market Development, Martin Heydon T.D, in conjunction with Bord Bia, led a series of meetings with key global customers across the UK, France, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada and China.

The PCF category includes meal solutions, confectionary, non-alcoholic beverages, ingredients and value-added meat, seafood, and horticulture. Producers in this sector supply some of the world’s largest foodservice outlets, major grocery retailers across Europe, and beyond, and some of the biggest global restaurant chains. It is a critical sector to maximise the potential of value-added ingredients in Ireland’s world-leading food, drink and horticulture industry. Total PCF exports across all markets were down by 18%, or €37.5 million, in January. This is the largest decrease observed since the onset of the pandemic and highlights the impact of the prolonged closure of the foodservice channel in many global markets.

Opening the virtual sourcing fair, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Mr. Charlie McConalogue, said:

“Ireland’s Prepared Consumer Foods sector is a vital part of our food and drink industry and is a crucial route to market for value added foods. With uncertain changes in traditional export markets, the need to diversify into new priority markets for innovative prepared consumer food product companies has never been greater. My department has been engaged with Bord Bia on an extensive market diversification and prioritisation strategy over recent years to broaden out the global base for this sector which now exports to an impressive 119 countries. 

I heartily welcome buyers from around the world who will connect with Ireland’s world-class sustainable food producers via 500 virtual meetings over 6 days. It is this innovative approach to business and this scale of ambition that will drive this sector on in this new era of global trading.” 

Meanwhile, Tara McCarthy, CEO of Bord Bia commented:

After what has been a challenging and disruptive year for the food industry around the world, we know that many supply chains need to adapt. This coupled, with the fact that all of the major

in-person food and beverage trade fairs in Europe and the US have been cancelled for the past 12 months, means that global customers are seeking out new ways to identify new suppliers and product innovations. Ireland’s Prepared Consumer Foods sector encompasses a wide range of innovative, sustainable, value-added food and beverage products that can meet these evolving needs. With 40 years exporting experience to retail, foodservice and manufacturing customers in more than 119 countries, this sector is highly responsive to consumer and market trends and creating insight-led innovation.  The Bord Bia Prepared Consumer Foods virtual trade fair will bring this to the fore as we engage with a game-changing number of buyers from Europe, the US and the United Arab Emirates to help support and future proof this sector.”

Bord Bia’s ‘Prepared Consumer Foods Accelerate 2021’ programme is a year-long initiative to support client companies in the prepared consumer foods category to accelerate growth by supporting diversification into prioritised markets. It helps them improve their capacity by giving them market insights and new opportunities with high potential buyers in export markets, along with a full offering of engagement and Bord Bia supports. This targeted programme of activity establishes mutually beneficial relationships with important buyers by further preparing Ireland’s PCF manufacturers for the international marketplace, facilitating introductions and then providing supports and liaison throughout the development of critical stage of new business relationships.

Later this year, Bord Bia will host further trade engagement events targeting new business and PCF buyers in the UK and ROI markets.



CSO Statistics for Food & Drink Exports in January 2021:

  • In January 2021, total exports (in value terms) of prepared consumer foods globally were down -18% compared to 2020.  This €37.5 million decline is the largest decrease observed since the onset of the pandemic, and the first reflection of the impact of Brexit on trade. It also reflects the impact of the prolonged closure of the foodservice channel in many global markets.
  • Specifically, in relation to PCF exports to the UK, January 2021 saw a decline of -19%, which equates to a reduction of €28million year-on-year.  
  • A month-on-month analysis of January 2021 compared to December 2020, shows that the overall value of food and drink exports reduced -29%; an indicator also of the extent of forward shipping and stock building in the UK in anticipation of Brexit implementation on 31st December 2020. 


About the Prepared Consumer Foods Category (Source: Bord Bia’s Performance & Prospects Report 2020 / 2021):

  • Prepared consumer foods (PCF) exports in 2020 were worth €2.5 billion, this represents circa 20% of overall global exports from the food and drink sector.  Last year this sector experienced significant channel disruption brought on by the pandemic.
  • The largest part of this category, and the source of the largest decline in 2020, is value-added meats (VAM). These products are supplied almost entirely to the foodservice channel, which remained largely closed in many markets worldwide in 2020. VAM exports were worth €648 million in 2020, a 14% decline on 2019.
  • Meal solutions – the subcategory providing pizza, ready meals and soups to the retail channel – witnessed strong year-on-year growth in 2020 of + 8% in value to €506 million. This growth reflects the strong and sustained retail demand throughout 2020 and illustrates the contrasting fortunes of retail and foodservice channels in 2020.
  • 68% of all PCF exports are destined for the UK market, making this sector one of the most Brexit exposed.