Bord Bia services unveiled to help firms navigate e-commerce platforms

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. He said, “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.

Director John Kenny 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.”