Bord Bia – Irish Food Board, founded in 1994 is the Irish government agency for the promotion and development of food, beverages and horticulture products at home and abroad. Bord Bia provides strategic market development, promotion and market research to support the growth of Irish food and drink exporters and to bring the taste of Irish products to tables all over the world by connecting suppliers with potential customers. Bord Bia’s Italian office is based in Milan where it’s newly appointed Director, Nicolas Ranninger, looks after the Italian, Swiss, Maltese, Greek and Cypriot markets.
We asked Nicolas Ranninger to tell us about his professional background:
I received my bachelor’s degree in Aquaculture and my master’s in Business Administration and Marketing in Paris, France. Between 2000 and 2009 I worked as a consultant for the Irish Fishery Board (BIM) aiding Irish companies who wished to enter and work in the markets of Benelux and France. Then from 2009 until 2010 I worked as Trade Market Specialist at the Bord Bia office in Paris. During my time in the Paris office I was responsible for seafood development in the French and Benelux markets. From 2010 until June 2015 I was assigned to the area of northern Europe where I supervised and managed the Stockholm office which accounted for a turnover of €300 million in food and beverage products.
Throughout my career I have focused on the promotion of quality of Irish products and during my time in Stockholm I got the opportunity to focus on the development of Irish beef and lamb in both retail and foodservice sectors. Since June 2015 I have been appointed manager of the Italian market.
What are your future goals for the Italian market and the promotion of Irish products?
Italy has always been an important market for Irish products. In 2014 we exported €311 million in food and beverages to Italy of which 60% was beef. Ireland has a rich tradition in the livestock sector. This is principally due to the fact that 80% of the land is suitable for grazing, making agriculture one of the most important drivers of the Irish economy. Our cattle produce a wide variety of products such as milk, cheese, butter as well as excellent beef from our best breeds – Hereford, Angus, Charolais – but is strong also breeding sheep and lambs.
Agriculture is fundamental to the Irish economy, especially in terms of international exports. Our agricultural system is steeped in tradition, made up of over 120,000 farmers owning small and medium-sized farms, where livestock plays an essential role. In fact, the agricultural sector in Ireland is one of the pillars of the Irish economy, representing 9% of national production.
In Italy, 45% of meat is still sold through butchers. Do you think it is possible to increase the share of Irish beef in the traditional retail channel?
This is an issue that is particularly close to my heart. Italy is a very fragmented market. The current economic climate has had an effect globally and can be particularly felt in Italy as people are increasingly cautious when it comes to purchasing. This is coupled with the fact that beef consumption has been steadily declining in Italy over the last few years. This has resulted in people taking time to think before they purchase as they seek out the right balance between quality and price. Italians traditionally prefer quality over quantity and this is where butchers come in and they play a significant role in adding value to the meat sector.
Traditional retail in Italy therefore has two basic roles. The first is to provide a service to their customers by helping them to find the quality product they are looking for at the right price. Secondly, their role is to educate their customer making them more knowledgeable bout the product they are buying.
Based on data and research to date, Irish meat and particularly Irish beef, has proven to be very popular amongst consumers. Based on the data and the actual results, our meat is very popular, but you must tell the consumer what differentiates it and what its unique characteristics are. For example the dark colour of the meat is due to the grass based diet of the animal and it also enhances the flavour and the tenderness of the beef. Explaining the unique characteristics of our beef is one of the main tasks that the traditional butcher should take on.