The Irish government has announced an initiative to help functional food producers compete in the international marketplace.

The initiative aims to assist the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Irish functional foods industry. Enterprise Ireland (the government agency responsible for developing indigenous Irish industry) is providing specialised training and support to equip client companies with the skills and knowledge needed to commercialise successfully their current and future functional ingredients, food and beverage products.

Marketing functional foods is complex, as many boast complicated benefits which can be difficult to communicate to consumers, processors and retailers. Couple this with a convoluted and changing regulatory framework, and many manufacturers struggle to achieve the full potential of their products.

Enterprise Ireland said that the Irish market for functional foods is conservatively valued at US$10m. Although largely dominated by functional dairy products, a number of SMEs have latched on to the burgeoning opportunities offered by consumer demand for ‘healthy eating’.

To kick-start its initiative, Enterprise Ireland recently organised a one-day interactive workshop entitled “Commercialising New Ingredient Science” in Cork. Facilitated by Julian Mellentin from the Centre for Food & Health Studies, the workshop addressed key issues such as the importance of science and branding, how to navigate the regulatory and claims environment and the vital need for relevant and cost-effective marketing communications.