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March 31 2010

From TASTE Council

SUBMISSION TO AGRI VISION 2020


1,000 local, artisan, speciality food firms + 1.65 billion in their local output at consumer prices = 4.1 billion in circulation in the local economy +7,500 more jobs by 2020.

Contents
1.0 2.0 3.0 4.0 5.0 6.0 7.0 Introduction Required Action from Agri Vision 2020 A Realistic Vision for Sustainable Job Creation Rationale A Potential Framework as a Basis for Strategy Key Facts in Support of This proposal Value for Money
Appendix 1 Members of TASTE Council Appendix 2 Teagasc Report on the Artisan Food Sector Appendix 3 The Grocer - Article September 2009

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1.0 Introduction
This document is a submission from the Taste Council to Agrivision 2020. The central aim of this document is to communicate the TASTE Councils request for 1 specific action in Agri Vision 2020 on behalf of farming, fishing and food primary and secondary producing entrepreneurs. The TASTE Council is a voluntary representative group of the smaller food business sector made up largely of local, artisan and speciality food producers and formally established in October 2003. (For a list of the TASTE Councils current membership please see Appendix 1). The TASTE Council engages with the relevant government departments, government agencies, non government organisations and education establishments to promote the interests of the traditional, artisan and speciality food producing and farming sector and to assist in its strategic development to maximise its current and potential contribution to Irelands food and agri economy, society, culture and environment. The TASTE Council formally represents the sector on the Food Safety Authority of Irelands (FSAI) Artisan Food Forum and the Agri Vision Artisan Food Sub Committee. The TASTE Council made a detailed submission to the last 2015 Agrivision committee many of the recommendations included have been acted upon particularly in relation to the support and promotion of artisan and speciality and regional foods.

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TASTE Councils Objectives are: To provide a national framework with access to international expertise and markets for the strategic development of the sector; To form a cohesive group representative of the sector; To draw on the expertise of the group (experience, skills, and knowledge) to address strategic issues facing this sector.

2.0 Required Action from Agri Vision 2020


The Taste Council requires one focussed action from Agri Vision 2020 and that is a commitment from government to prepare a cross departmental strategy for the sector covering enterprise, education and skills, tourism, food, fisheries and agriculture and environment. The high level outcome of the strategy will be sustainable job creation through food, farming and fishing entrepreneurship.

3.0 A Realistic Vision for Sustainable Job Creation


By 2020 the existing base of 350 artisan/speciality food firms could double their output at consumer prices and increase their market share of the local market from 3% to 6% resulting in 1,000 new jobs created and (through a multiplier effect of local food expenditure see section 6.3) would circulate 2.1 billion into the local economy per annum, During the next 10 years 650 new food entrepreneurs could establish businesses, resulting in 6,500 new jobs created and based on current local output levels this group could result in a further 2 billion into circulation in the local economy.

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In combination this would result in 7,500 new jobs and an additional 4.1 billion in circulation in the Irish economy. In order for this to occur the policy and intervention landscape would need to be adapted. In addition collaborative government body actions developed in partnership with the sector would need to be aligned and in place to deliver on these jobs. For key facts in support of this proposal please refer to Section 6.0.

4.0 Rationale
This submission is made in the context of: High levels of unemployment in Ireland, 10,000 people having been made redundant from the food processing sector since the beginning of 2009 largely due to a repositioning of food processing sector due to currency fluctuations and increased production costs, A 16% fall (during 1998-2007) in employment in agriculture, forestry and fishing and the continued drift from fulltime farming. And as part of the TASTE Councils view of the food industrys collective responsibility as a prime mover in economic recovery.

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5.0 A Potential Framework as a Basis for Strategy


The strategy should work to appropriately support the sectors potential in order to deliver on the growth targets as outline in section 3.0. This includes finding ways to mitigate or reduce barriers to growth or to convert these to enablers. It should also include developing ways to maximise enablers of growth.

Growth Enablers
1. Consumer Demand for Local (increasing) 2. Tourist Demand for Food Experience 3. State Aid regime in support of sustainability 4. Direct Sales Growth Ecommerce/Internet Channels /Farmers Market Systemetc. 5. Growth in independent outlets

By 2020 1,000 small food producers/farming/fishing entrepreneurs

Growth Inhibitors
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Retailer Concentration Finance for start up and growth Strict regulatory regime Access to equipment/process/skill for artisan process Consumer inhibitors to buying local food such as perception of price/value, access and distribution and trust.

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6.0 Key Facts in Support of This Proposal 6.1 Speciality Food Business Population, Revenue, Employment and
Growth to date The total food firm population is Ireland is estimated at 800 firms. The majority of these firms are SMEs. The speciality food business population in Ireland (defined by Bord Bia as micro and small firms) with individual turnover levels of between 100,000 and 3.5 million per annum is 350 firms. This group excludes the firms which started as micro or small and graduated to become bigger firms over the course of the last 15 years (e.g. Glenisk, Lily OBriens, Clonakilty Black Pudding, Mr. Crumb). These 350 firms grew from a population of 60 firms in 1996. These 350 firms have a combined output at consumer prices (i.e. prices charged at retail or foodservice prices) of 475 million. Approximately 10% of this output is destined for exports leaving 427.5 million as local sales in Ireland or 3% share of the local market for food grocery and foodservice (the latter worth 14.5 billion in 2008).

6.2 Benchmark New Zealand


New Zealand is often regarded as a good benchmark in Agri-food for Ireland due to its similar population size, island status and temperate climate. Through inventiveness, cutting edge technology, research and astute branding and marketing, more than 2,000 speciality food and beverage companies (excluding wines) add value to a wide range of

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natural products resulting in niche products which stand out in the international marketplace. The foods produced range from traditional pastries, honey, confectionery, speciality sauces, marinades, oils, luxury ice creams, cheeses, organic soups, energy drinks, organic juices and boutique beers. New Zealands speciality food and beverage exports were estimated at NZ$8.75 billion in 2006, up from NZ$2.9 billion in the 16 years since 1990. Key export markets include USA, Australia, Europe, Japan and China. New Zealand is often first to market with new niche concepts such as avocado oil for example. The country is also receiving international recognition for its olive oils. Pioneering research work results in new high value products such as for example Manuka honey as a medicinal product effective against highly resistant bacteria. There are only 80 farmers markets in New Zealand and all require that 80% of product is local.

6.3 Local Food Revenue Multiplier Effect


A study by the New Economics Foundation in London found that every 10 spent at a local food business is worth 25 for the local area, compared with just 14 when the same amount is spent in a supermarket. That is, a pound (or euro) spent locally generates more than twice as much income for the local economy. The farmer buys a drink at the local pub; the pub owner gets a car fixed at the local mechanic; the mechanic brings a shirt to the local tailor; the tailor buys some bread at the local bakery; the baker buys wheat for bread and 8|Page

fruit for muffins from the local farmer. When these businesses are not owned locally, money leaves the community through every transaction. This means that the 472.5 million consumer sales value of output sold locally in Ireland from over 350 small, local and speciality Irish food businesses, results in 1.01 billion in total revenue back into local business communities throughout Ireland. An increased share of the national food grocery and foodservice markets (estimated at 14.5billion in 2008) would serve their growth potential well. Provided these companies increase their share of the local market for food and drink from 3% to 6% their local turnover would rise to 855 million per annum which through the multiplier effect would circulate 2.1 billion in the local economy. 6.4 Local Food Jobs The 350 small food businesses who are client firms of Bord Bia employ approximately 3,000 people. We estimate that these firms by doubling their revenue and market share over ten years have the potential to increase their employment levels by one third, thereby creating 1,000 new job opportunities. Smaller food companies are generally more labour intensive than large manufacturing food firms. Large firms need to apply technology to become less labour intensive and to compete on scale. From 1998 to 2007 industrial employment fell by 4% in Ireland. During the same period employment in agriculture, forestry and fishing fell by 16%. During this period however, small food firms expanded their employment level from 600 people to 3,000 people, largely through start up and growth.

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We believe that a minimum of 650 new food/farming/fishing entrepreneurs could grow the sector to 1000 firms by 2020. This target number is conservative when you consider the number of speciality food firms in New Zealand (see section 6.2). It is noted that, on March 30th 2010, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) reported a 50% increase in enquiries regarding the starting up or establishment of new food firms in 2009 compared to 2008. These 650 new small businesses can grow to the equivalent size of the 350 firms active in the area to date resulting in an additional 6,500 jobs created as these firms grow to an average employment level of 10 people each. Innovation, research, astute and cost effective branding, marketing and distribution for national and international export sales will be critical to their success as is the case in the New Zealand model. Direct routes to market will need to be facilitated further to support this level of start up. An important growth channel for all players going forward will be online direct sales and sales through online resellers as the online channel is likely to become a broader, all-encompassing destination for all things speciality. These additional 650 firms would grow the consumer price output of the small food business sector locally by an additional 611million. Applying the multiplier effect to this output leads to a potential turnover in circulation in the local economy of 1.5 billion.

6.5 Food Tourism Food Tourism is defined as a visiting tourists experience of food or food activity. No longer considered a niche, food tourism covers all 10 | P a g e

touchpoints or points at which a visiting tourist samples and experiences the food from a place. Food Tourism in Ireland is valued at 2.3 billion at consumer prices in 2008. This means that visitors spend on food and beverage accounts for 2.3 billion in Ireland. This figure is largely included in the foodservice market valued at 5.5 billion in 2008. Local Food from an artisan/speciality food producer, farmer or fisherman translates into a story and experience for visiting tourists which is unique to Ireland as a place. This offers Filte and Tourism Ireland a critical advantage in the place marketing of Ireland as a tourist destination in a highly competitive area. In 2009 Tourism Ireland reported to Bord Bia that local food activity had risen exponentially up their target visiting tourists agenda now ranking third or fourth place in order of priority. For a visiting British tourist local food activity as a priority has risen to the second most important priority after seeing the sights. The potential for mutual gain for the food and tourism sector through a collaborative approach to food tourism is substantial, and has much to add to the sustainable performance of food and tourism sectors.

6.6 Sustainable Food Systems The price of food disguises externalised costs of environmental impact and the impact on the health of the nation. Local food has the potential to create a highly sustainable food system and to protect our 11 | P a g e

food security in the face of climate change and volatility in energy input prices and commodity prices. Supporting local providers supports responsible land development and a collaborative effort to building more locally based and selfreliant food economies. Self reliant food economies are those in which sustainable food production, processing, distribution, and consumption is integrated to enhance the economic, environmental and social position of communities. This is central to the development of Ireland the Sustainable Food Island (as a source of food) and to Ireland as a sustainable food destination (for tourists). Buying local food also keeps us in touch with the seasons. By eating with the seasons, we are eating foods when they are at their most natural, peak in taste, most abundant and therefore least expensive and most nutritious. Organic production adds to the sustainability of food systems and particularly in the context of local. The current targets to increase organic agriculture will assist in this process and is welcomed by the TASTE Council. 6.7 The Market for Local Food and Speciality Food Demand for local food is rising in Ireland (source Bord Bia Persicope). However, importantly, very recent consumer research by Bord Bia (February 2010) on local food in Ireland illustrates a substantial headway for local food as defined by food from local people and small scale producers. The shift reflects a move back to basics in the local food arena as consumers support local food for local community benefit.

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The research proves that local food in Ireland is now a category in its own right reaching 93% consumer awareness and the definition has shifted from a geographically focused one to a more producer and small scale product-centric one. In 2007 41% of consumers thought of Local Food as produced within the Republic of Ireland- today just 10% of consumers define the category in those terms. Instead now almost half of the population defines local food as Food that is produced or grown by local people and a further 20% define the category as Food that is not mass-produced. This shift in the definition of the category has also seen a shift in the core motivations to purchase Local Food, with more emphasis being placed upon Taste and Naturalness. All of this is underlined by an increased reliance upon Farmers Markets and Farm Gate sales as a source of Local Food at the expense of Small and Large Supermarkets. Some 12% of consumers now buying local food from Farm Gates, compared with 5% in 2007. And 35% are buying from Farmers Markets compared with 29% three years ago. These are substantial shifts in Irish consumer behaviour. It appears the Local Food movement is developing in its own way and mainstream retailers (with a few exceptions) have yet to embrace this movement fully. International visitors are also seeking out local food, making Food in Tourism a key priority for tourism authorities in order to compete in the international tourism arena.

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Specialty food and beverages continue to exhibit strong growth in spite of the economic downturn. This is particularly the case in international markets. By way of example in the US, craft beer generated $287 million in sales in supermarkets for the 20 weeks ending Oct. 4, 2009 a 14.2% increase from the same period in 2008, according to Information Resources Inc. According to the US National Association of the Specialty Food Trade retail sales of specialty foods and beverages rose significantly in 2008, despite the turbulent economy, while foodservice sales declined amid a cut-back in restaurant dining. Consumers increased their purchases of specialty pasta, refrigerated and frozen entrees, baby food and yogurt. The boom in budget lines in Britain has slowed (see grocer article Appendix 4). Asda has seen a change in consumer buying patterns with sales of the chains extra special products rising as people opt to eat in rather than dine out. Despite strong evidence of Irish consumers cutting back on their spending, RoI and NI consumers are reluctant to forego trading up altogether. Three in ten Irish consumers (30% in NI and 28% in RoI) continued to fill their shopping baskets with premium products in 20091.

7.0 Value for Money


Equivalent grant levels for typical enterprise support or inward investment is in the region of 7,500 to 20,000 per job or an investment level of from 56 million to 150 million for 7,500 new jobs. We believe that this sector can create 7,500 additional jobs more cost effectively than this.

Source: Mintel

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This would also be a significantly better investment for the state compared to inward investment jobs in particular when the multiplier effect of local food spend is taken into account which supports a broader level of job retention/creation locally.

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APPENDIX 1 TASTE Council Membership

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Taste Council Members


Darina Allen
Veuve Cliquot Business woman of the year 2002, Owner/Manager Ballymaloe Cookery School, Founder Midleton Farmers Market, author and journalist. Organic farmer. University of Ulster conferred honorary doctorate for contribution to Irish Cuisine and Irish hospitality in 2003. Winner of Andr Simon Cookbook Award 2010 Darina has worked with small local producers through Ballymaloe for many years has strong links to the US market. Darina is an advocate and practitioner in the establishment of farmers markets.

Hugo Arnold
Food Journalist and consultant Hugo Arnold has written food columns in the London Evening Standard, the Financial Times and now in the Irish Times. He has written 11 books. He also works as a restaurant consultant specialising in menu development.

James Burke
Having spent over 20 years with Superquinn holding many roles such as store manager, business development manager, group purchasing manager and trading manager. James is now a food consultant specialising in strategy and business planning for small and large food companies. James has an MBA in retailing and wholesaling from Stirling University.

Birgetta Hedin-Curtin
Background: Originally from Sweden Studied Marine Biology and started up Burren Smokehouse in Lisdoonvarna 21 years ago. Produces award winning organic Salmon,Trout,Eel and mackerel. Chairperson of Slow Food Clare, Chairperson of IASC, member of Good Food Ireland. Member of Foras Organach Marketing board.

Jilly Dougan

Background: Moyallon Foods and chairman of the Farmers' Market in Belfast.

Evan Doyle - Chairman


Co-owner of the critically acclaimed Brooklodge Hotel at Macreddin Village, Wicklow For 21 years, now, through his menus at The Strawberry Tree, Evan has been a pioneer of the organic movement, and has publicly advocated a total emphasis on sourcing only organic, artisan and wild foods for his restaurant. Evan is a director of The Organic Trust, a Committee member of Eurotoques, the European Community of Cooks and has been deeply involved with SlowFood since its introduction to Ireland.

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Stuart Gates
Background: Stuart Gates joined Harrods Ltd in 1975, and from 1987 to 1991 held the position of Group Manager of their Food Hall. In 1991 he set up SMG Associates, his own consultancy and import business, specialising in importing goods from North America. In 1993 he was appointed as General Manager of Fortnum and Mason PLC's Food business where he worked his way up the ladder to Managing Director before leaving in 2004. Stuart then moved onto the position of Director and General Manager of Daylesford Organics. Stuart subsequently re joined Harrods and is currently the Food Development and Hampers Director.

Eilis Gough
Owner of Mileeven Foods. Eilis is a producer, and member of the Evaluation Committee - an advisory body to the Kilkenny County Enterprise Board and the Consumer Foods Board - Bord Bia.

Ed Hick
Ed is a Fourth Generation Pork Butcher. With experience in Traditional Pork Butchery including sausage making, bacon curing and smoking, continental and native processing techniques, animal husbandry and slaughter. Ed is a micro-producer and market stall holder.

Michael Horgan
Background: Owner of Horgans Delicatessen Supplies Expertise: The careful sourcing of artisan food products throughout Europe, the monitoring of consumer trends, and the sales, marketing and distribution of speciality foods.

Domini Kemp
Domini Kemp trained as a chef at Leith's in London before co-writing New Irish Cooking and working in the Michelin-starred Peacock Alley. In 1999, she opened the hugely popular itsa with her sister Peaches. Together, they run four branches of itsa, as well as the caf, itsa@IMMA in the RHK. They run the outdoor catering company, Feast catering which has recently taken over as resident caterer in Powerscourt House in Co. Wicklow. They run the gastro-neighborhood restaurant itsa4 in Sandymount and operate the restaurants in both Brown Thomas Cork and Dublin. Domini is member of Euro Toques, writes a recipe column in The Irish Times and her second cook-book will be published later this year, by Gill & MacMillan.

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Ross Lewis
Ross is from Cork and, and a graduate of University College Cork. He has travelled and worked in the restaurant industry in New York, London and Switzerland. His passion & drive to open his own restaurant brought him back to Ireland where he has become immersed in Irelands emerging food culture. Ross was Commissioner General for Eurotoques Ireland from 2001 2004 and is currently one of its commissioners. He also sits as a member of the Taste Council of Ireland .Both organizations are dedicated to promoting the use of organic and artisan locally produced ingredients and Ross dedication to this is evident in the menus he creates at Chapter One. Since its opening Chapter One and its team have been the recipients of numerous awards for both service and food. Ross was awarded with a 1* Michelin in 2007. Chapter One has also been internationally feted by top U.S food magazines former food editor as his favourite Dublin restaurant and by Australian Gourmet Traveller as having a reputation for serving the very best of Irish inspired cuisine.

John McKenna
John McKenna is the author and publisher, with his wife, Sally, of "The Bridgestone Guides", a series of independent, critical guides to Irelands food and hospitality cultures. The McKennas have written and published the Bridgestone Guides since 1991. John McKenna has been described by The New York Times as "Ireland's leading food critic", by The Financial Times as "Ireland's champion food writer", and by The Guardian as "Ireland's most opinion-forming food critic and a powerful commentator on culinary trends". John McKenna has won four Glenfiddich Awards for food writing and broadcasting, and he has also won the Andr Simon Special Award for "The Bridgestone Irish Food Guide".

Raymond ORourke
A qualified Barrister and a specialist food regulatory and consumer affairs lawyer. He worked for many years in legal firms both in Dublin and Brussels. Prior to that he worked in Brussels at the European Parliament and also for the European Consumers Association (BEUC). He has written two books European Food Law (3rd edition) (2005) Thomsen/Sweet & Maxwell and Food Safety & Product Liability (2000) Palladian Law Publishing. He is a regular speaker at conferences on food law issues. Raymond is also a member of the FSAI's Artisan Forum

Kevin Sheridan

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Co-founder and owner of Sheridans Cheesemongers Ltd. Chairperson Artisan Food Producers of Meath Co-ordinator Irish Raw Milk Cheese Presidium

Peter Ward (Chairman 2003 - 2008)


Owner/manager Country Choice, independent delicatessen, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary. Peter was the founding Chairman of the TASTE Council since 2003 and has been hugely influential in the achievements of the Council to date. He represented the views of Irish Speciality Food on curriculum enhancement for adult education with TEAGASC, submissions to small business forum and the consultation process for National Rural Development Strategy as well as appearing before a number of Joint Oireachtas Committees.

Caroline Byrne
Caroline Byrne graduated from Trinity College in 2006 and has since then pursued a career in professional food writing, in trade and consumer press. She was editor of grocery and FMCG magazine, ShelfLife, from April 2008 until January 2010, and is currently an editor and writer with Bridgestone Food Guides. Caroline is also wine columnist for the Irish Garden magazine and holds an Advanced Certificate from the WSET. She also provides consultancy services to restaurants and other food businesses.

Siobhan Ni Ghairbhith
Siobhan Ni Ghairbhith is a native of Inagh, Co. Clare. She is a former school teacher turned cheesemaker when in 1999 she took over the making of St Tola Goats Cheese. At the time the cheese was being made near her parents house in Inagh by Meg and Derrick Gordon; brave pioneers in the Irish Artisan Food industry. Siobhan brought the cheese up to full Organic standards (I.O.F.G.A.) built new, state of the art cheese making premises and developed St Tola from a small local cottage industry to a world recognised brand producing a range of cheeses. St Tola has been the proud winner of many awards over the years including Best

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Organic Cheese at the British Cheese Awards, Best Overall product at the National Organic Awards and Premio Roma in Italy. Siobhan is the former Chairperson of CAIS, a member of Slow Food Ireland and a member of the Taste Council. She is a fervent believer in organic farming practises, a fluent Irish speaker and a passionate advocate of Irish food, culture and music.

Fiona Lavery
Fiona Lavery is the Invest Northern Ireland representative on the Taste Council and has been involved since the Council's inception in October 2003. She has worked with the small business sector for twenty years and her current role includes management of Invest NI's overseas participation at food and drink shows.

Robert Ditty
Dittys is a thriving third generation bakery based in Castledawson, Co. Derry, Northern Ireland, which has been going strong for 45 years. Robert uses local producers such as traditional smoke houses, organic dairies and local farmers to offer a broad range of oatcakes, specialty biscuits, pastries, breads and savoury foods that combine natural ingredients with traditional baking recipes. Roberts passion for promoting Northern Irelands unique bakery tradition resulted in HRH Prince Charles visiting Dittys Bakery in 2004. Robert was the first Irish baker to become chairman of the British Confectioners Association and was one of the founding members of the North East Ireland Slow Food Convivium. Robert is currently on the Good Food Ireland Steering Group and is a member of the Institute of Northern Ireland Beekeepers.

Associate Members

Randolph Hodgson
Owner/Manager Neal's Yard Dairy, Chair of the UK Specialist Cheesemakers Association. Instrumental in the founding and committee management of London's Borough Market. Winner of the Tio Pepe, Carlton London Restaurant Awards 2003 for an outstanding contribution to London restaurants. Has also worked with international cheese makers for many years, in addition has liaised successfully on policy adaptation for speciality food in Britain.

Kevin Thornton

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Michelin star chef and restaurant owner. Upon graduating he worked at Walton's in London, subsequently travelling through vineyards in Europe to learn about wine. He then expanded what he knew by working and travelling - to Switzerland, to Canada, then back to Ireland to the Shelbourne before going to France to work at the multistarred restaurant of Paul Bocuse in Lyon. Kevin is the first Irish chef to have gained two Michelin stars. Kevin was instrumental in getting the DIT to set up a four-year degree course in Culinary Arts.

Simon Pratt
Owner/Manager Avoca Hand weavers. Simon was instrumental in the writing and publication of the Avoca series of cookery books.

APPENDIX 2 Teagasc Report on the Artisan Food Sector

Artisan Food: Artisan Food in Ireland (Extracted from Teagasc Website, March 2010)
The production of speciality food in Ireland accounts for approx. 500m pa from a base of 300 producers. Of these almost 50 are farmhouse cheese producers compared to Holland which is the size of Munster and has over 100 cheese producers or indeed New Zealand with over 2,000 speciality food producers. So clearly it would seem that the market is far from saturated. But what drives our food producers? Is it the lure of the euro? clearly one hopes and expects to make money from any business venture but for our food producers it is much more, it is about the passion of producing top quality hand made food and not the mass produced, processed and often flavourless varieties that are thrown in front of us day after day. The growth of farmers markets in Ireland over the past decade has been quite extraordinary and with the assistance of local enterprise boards and leader groups this now results in a turnover in excess of 10m pa., and reflects the diversity of products, our changing lifestyles and agricultural environment. But when we buy artisan what exactly do we get? A product labelled or categorized as Artisan has no set-in-stone definition because essentially it is down to who you ask. Artisan for me in descriptive of a food that is unique, usually hand made with a distinctive taste and flavour and with its own persona which can cover a range of products such as breads, meats, cheeses, preserves and produce. Irish food writer John McKenna eloquently describes Artisan food as a test of 4Ps, it is a synthesis of the Personality of the producer, the Place it come from, the Product itself and Passion in the manner it is produced Zingermans speciality food describe it as traditional or traditionally made, mostly in batch sizes using hand-done techniques which encompasses flavour, tradition and the integrity of the producer.

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APPENDIX 3 Article The Grocer Magazine 5th September 2009

Fine food back on form


The market for specialist and fine food products has been in year-long decline. A survey of 200 delis and farm shops by The Guild of Fine Foods last November found a 15% drop in sales; the organic category has suffered a well-publicised slump; while premium and superpremium products made way for more value lines at the major retailers, including the launch of Waitrose Essential and Tescos Discounter range. However, as well as exceptions, encouraging signs have started to emerge, according to a number of key sources. A report by Nielsen last month suggested the boom in budget ownlabel ranges had slowed to 13.7%; while sales of premium own-label lines, which fell by 11.6% [Nielsen MAT August 2008] were up 4.5%. And while Waitrose has gone out of its way to link its recent strong performance to the launch of its value lines, it insists speciality and fine foods are still a vital ingredient. We have always been a destination for speciality, niche products and it is an area we continue to over-trade in.The Waitrose spokesman cites, as examples, speciality beers and lagers, with sales up 40% and 36% respectively on the same period last year; and sales at our olive bars have so far been 12% higher this year than last, he adds. Also targeting the key ABC1 customer of late has been Asda. Customers are still trading up on little luxuries, says an Asda spokesman. The Extra Special range is holding its own in a tough climate. Customers will still trade up if they can see the value. While we do increasingly see Smartprice baskets, there is still a mix. As to Tesco, the self-styled peoples supermarket had been accused of ignoring its ABC1 customers, which outnumber those of Asda, Sainsburys and Morrisons combined, with the Discounter range and an apparent move downmarket last year, but it, too, reports a pick-up in sales of premium and organic lines aided by increased promotion. Most of our customers have a mixed basket containing Tesco Value as well as Finest, underlining its peoples perceptions of value that inform their purchasing patterns. This is as likely to come from premium ranges as others, a spokesman says.

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