A new report from Bord Bia (The Irish Food Board) reveals that a third of Irish businesses in the food and drink sector experienced increased retail sales, despite the challenges posed by Covid-19 and Brexit.

Businesses also expressed positive optimism for the future as the UK continues to be one of the most important markets for sales and growth across almost all Irish food and drink categories.

Bord Bia’s Readiness Radar report is based on a survey of 110 Irish businesses from across food, drink and horticulture, representing an estimated 60% of all Irish food and drink exports.

While 90% of the Irish businesses exporting to Britain have reported an increase in the costs of doing so post-Brexit, companies prepared well ahead of the curve to mitigate risk and potential impact to their businesses. 82% developed ‘robust’ plans to meet the various market challenges and respond to Brexit regulatory and legislative issues. Specifically, seven in 10 companies revealed that they are well prepared for processing GB customs documentation.

‘Positive outlook’

78% of Irish businesses expressed a positive outlook for the next 12 months, with 46% anticipating an increase in sales thanks to strong trading relationships with GB customers.

Longer-term, eight in 10 Irish businesses are optimistic about trading prospects for the next three years to come. 

Almost half of companies expect Covid-19 to remain a significant risk to their business going forward, but following a year of operating in the pandemic, 93% claim to be much more prepared for the ongoing risks associated with Covid-19.  

Bord Bia CEO Tara McCarthy said: “We are now six months into trading in a post-Brexit era which has brought about significant change and unprecedented challenges. Yet the fact that almost half of all Irish companies exporting to Britain anticipate an increase in sales to the UK in the next 12 months is testament to the resilience of the Irish food and drink industry, and the strong relationships we have with customers in Great Britain.”

“What has also emerged as a key enabler for Irish businesses is the desire and availability of dedicated insight into the UK market. As a critical area for support and development in the future, Bord Bia’s UK based Thinking House research centre will continue to provide world-class insight to enable stronger product innovation and the development of better customer relationships for Irish food and drink exporters to the UK.”

In terms of the post-Brexit and Covid future, Irish food and drink producers have invested in four key areas to help grow and maintain sales in the UK: sustainability, product innovation, new technology and insights. 54% of businesses have increased their investment in new product development and 95% agreed that sustainability will become more important in the next three years.