Saturday 17 March 2018

Problem solver: It's crucial to test Irish taste for French flavours

Feargal Quinn
Feargal Quinn

Feargal Quinn

Q: I recently saw a food product in France which I intend to produce and sell in the Irish market place. Where can I go to get support for my project?

A: It is great to see that you are innovating, however there are a few things worth considering before I answer your question.

It is really important that you carry out some consumer research on this project. Sometimes a product that works in one country will not necessarily work in another. Of course, there are plenty of positive examples over the decades like croissants, pain au chocolat, etc.

If the product is sufficiently different to what the Irish consumer is used to, you might also want to consider the job of education that your packaging and branding will want to cover. Some customers may not be familiar with it or wonder how to use it, so having robust packaging and branding should be a core part of your plan.

The good news is that there are now great supports throughout Ireland for people starting a food business.

Go to your local enterprise office and they will direct you to the various different programmes they have which support food businesses. Your product may suit the Food Academy programme, which would see you trialling it on the shelves of SuperValu. At this point, a session with a food mentor might also be helpful in challenging your idea and bringing new learnings to you.

The good news is, that in the right circumstance, there may be some grant assistance that you can avail of. You will find this under either the feasibility section or the priming grant section of the enterprise website. Good luck with the project and don't forget to send on some samples!

Q: I run a pharmacy which is trading well and I have minimal competition in the local area. My shop is tired and run down and I am questioning whether I need to invest or not?

A: You are lucky that competition is at a minimal level right now. The pharmacy sector in particular has become very challenged in recent years with both domestic and international chains pushing into almost every town in Ireland.

My advice to any business which is performing well, is that you must continually evolve and grow the business - not alone because it is the right thing to do, but also to act as a deterrent to any potential competitor looking at moving into your area.

Right now, if a competitor looks at your business they may conclude that it would be pretty easy to steal some of your business if they put a bright and modern shop into the town with the right consumer offer.

If this were to happen - and hopefully it won't - the cost of defending your business would be enormous and from my experience in the retail sector, it could take you decades to return to the same level of sales of profitability.

Invest now and modernise your shop and also look at new and innovative product ranges which you can introduce to your consumer base. Always keep as your objective to be the best pharmacy in your region, constantly reviewing your offer and trying to exceed expectations.

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