A new, pioneering €2.2m EU INTERREG IVA-funded programme aims to increase sales by €30m across 90 food and drink manufacturers, as well as enhancing the marketing skills of 400 companies in the border regions of the Republic of Ireland, Western Scotland, and across Northern Ireland.
‘Access 6’ is an innovative programme which introduces the theme of ‘co-operation’, bringing together the collective skills and experience of the sector’s three main representative bodies – the Irish Exporters Association (IEA), Scotland Food & Drink (SFD), and Northern Ireland Food & Drink (NIFDA).
Over the next three years the three bodies will work collaboratively with a core group of 90 SME food and drink manufacturers from across the three regions, overcoming the barriers which have hampered growth and establishing a strong presence on the world market. Through mentoring, marketing assistance and logistical support, the programme will help develop the skills required to trade in key export markets including the USA and Europe.
In addition to sales growth, the programme aims to create an additional 90 new jobs within the participating businesses, and also up-skill a further 400 SMEs across the region as a whole. The longer term aim is to reinvigorate the food & drink sector on a cross border basis, helping it achieve world-class status by realising its full export potential.
While initially selected on a geographical basis, the companies will be grouped into market-specific clusters and embark on a schedule which includes knowledge exchange, management practice training and support, and overseas study tours.
Each cluster will also work alongside a channel partner within each export market, such as a major distributor, wholesaler or retail multiple. This will create a strong competitive advantage by providing a clear route to the end market.