Ireland’s Food Harvest 2020 initiative seeks North American food and beverage investment, targets New Zealand meat and dairy

Ireland Invest2

“Ireland is open for food, beverage and ingredients manufacturing businesses!”, that is.

Ireland has committed to become Europe’s food manufacturing center and gateway to the EU, said representatives of Enterprise Ireland at a well-attended meeting hosted by Enterprise Ireland and the “Food Industry Team” of the Chicago law firm, Freeborn & Peters LLP on November 5th, at Chicago’s University Club.

Ireland’s government and dairy and meat industries, meanwhile, have targeted New Zealand as their benchmark competitor in a decisive effort to transform Ireland into a global, export-driven dairy and meat powerhouse producer, as part of an ambitious plan dubbed Food Harvest 2020. Noting that the EU represents about 25% of the world’s consumer spending power, Enterprise Ireland representatives David Butler and Jonathan McMillan affirmed the Irish government’s commitment to lure American food, beverage and nutritional products manufacturers to Ireland through incentives and bolstered support structures.

“Once in Ireland, you will have full access to the EU”, they noted.

Citing the 2012 IMD World Competitiveness Rankings report, speakers pointed to Ireland’s:

  • No. 1 worldwide rankings for investment incentives, skilled labor, flexibility and       adaptability
  • No. 2 ranking in the world for openness to foreign investment
  • No. 2 ranking in Europe, for overall productivity and business environment.

The organic dynamism of Ireland’s food sector has already been evident in the U.S.: witness the rapid and decisive market share carve outs in the American food and food industry supplier network by Irish companies big (Kerry, Glanbia) and small (Megazyme) that occurred during the 1980s and ‘90s. One must remember that Ireland (pop. 4.8 million) is a country that punches well over its weight.

Ireland offers a natural base for American food and beverage companies, maintained Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney. Coveney went on to explain that in anticipation of the removal of EU milk production quotas in 2015, Ireland’s 5-Year Food Harvest 2020 Plan will launch a multi-pronged effort to upgrade its agricultural supply chains through government incentives and human capital and food technology investments, with a strong emphasis on sustainable agricultural practices and green technology applications.

Freeborn & Peters attorney John Shapiro noted that the increased confluence of U.S. and EU food quality and safety expectations and regulations will further smooth the entry of U.S. companies into the EU and that the EU is too large a market to ignore. Also, both sides of the Atlantic share similar business environments, cultures and consumer and regulatory trends (e.g., sustainability, increased protein consumption and “clean labels”).

Dairy and meat: high hurdles and major makeovers

Minister Coveney noted that, while Ireland’s milk and meat production lags well behind New Zealand’s, “New Zealand and Ireland share very similar production conditions”. Both countries, for example, rely heavily on pastured herds, which raises the possibility of value-added marketing of the nutritional and environmental benefits associated with pasture (versus intensive feed-based) milk and livestock production. Both Ireland and New Zealand place a high priority on agricultural sustainability and environmental initiatives.

New Zealand produced 19,173 million liters of milk in 2011/2012, versus 5,198 million liters for Ireland over the same period, according to the UK-based DairyCo Marketing Information. That is a high hurdle to overcome.

Food Harvest 2020 delineates aggressive development targets that require increasing milk production by 50% by 2020, together with 40-50% increases in beef, pork and lamb production, said Coveney.

In separate comments made to BEST VANTAGE Inc., Coveney allowed that there were many structural differences that needed to be overcome. Irish dairy herd sizes are still very small, averaging 50-99 head per farm, and milk production efficiency is very low. Plus, pasturage is expensive and underutilized in comparison to New Zealand and EU dairy powerhouses, such as Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands.

“However, all these hurdles are surmountable. We view this as a great opportunity for growth through structural improvements,” said Coveney, himself a former livestock manager.

Much of the anticipated growth in herd expansion is expected to come from improved land utilization and feed optimization. Given Ireland’s reputation as Europe’s “Celtic tiger”, it would appear foolhardy to underestimate its ability to meet its Food Harvest 2020’s targets.

Asked if the placement of increased “sustainability” burdens on Irish meat and dairy producers and would hamper rather than enhance agricultural efficiencies, Coveney strongly disagreed. “That’s what the farmers thought would happen at first, but when they began to see how sustainability considerations actually improved their efficiencies and saved them money, their attitudes changed.”

— Dan Best is the President of BEST VANTAGE Inc.

For more information:

Pulses in foods…summarized.

BEST VANTAGE Inc.’s fourth and final “How To:” Pulse WEBINAR, sponsored by the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council through a grant conferred by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, was presented November 7th, with a record number of attendees. All four webinars in this series will be available for review in .pdf and/or presentation format in the near future at the link provided at the end of this post…so please stay posted.RandDTrends3

Although the focus of this webinar was on extruded products, ranging from pasta to puffed snacks, the presentation also reviewed previously addressed bakery, battered and fried products and beverage formulations as well the overall trend toward more pulse consumption in Western societies. Please note also that, whereas these webinars addressed peas, chickpeas and lentils, there have also been significant developments in the use of dry bean (Phaseolus sp.) – derived ingredients.

This most recent webinar #4 addressed the importance of amylose-to-amylopectin ratios in pulse starches and the effects of proteins, dietary fiber, moisture and barrel temperature conditions on the expansion properties of HTST (high-temperature, short-time) extruded snacks and breakfast cereals. The webinar also looked at low-shear extrusion…specifically, the positive contributions of pulse flours on the textural qualities, cooking properties and nutritional value of pasta. Much of this work has been undertaken at the North Dakota State University-affiliated Northern Crops Institute (NCI), which can be linked at

In our view pulses are perfectly positioned to exploit a unique convergence of consumer trends in Western countries, that include: economy-driven price concerns, increased dietary protein consumption; heightened food safety awareness; sensitivity to environmental concerns and growing interest in ethnic-fusion cuisines. These trends will continue to stoke interest in pulses and pulse ingredients for the foreseeable future.

Here is a top-line overview of our four-part series:

 Pulses are going mainstream

Pulses increasingly appear in center-plate entrees, soups, salads and side dishes. New product applications for pulse ingredients include breakfast cereals, nutritional products, sweet baked goods, breads, nutrition bars, extruded snacks, crackers, snack chips, battered and fried goods, beverages and nutritional fitness products. Representative formulations were provided.

Quality standards

Pulses constitute a relatively new growth category in foods and international quality benchmarks have yet to be standardized. North America’s agricultural environment, combined with its production, shipping, handling and technical support infrastructure, has transformed it into a world leader in the production and export of high-quality dry beans, lentils, peas and chickpeas.

Strong consumer drivers

These include: strong demand for high-protein foods; the search for overall improved nutritional value; increased awareness of the importance of Glycemic Index and an aversion to the presence of gluten and other allergenic ingredients in foods. Pulse ingredients do not require allergen warning statements on food packages and examples were provided of how they can replace egg, milk and soy ingredients in a range of food formulations…at (usually) a considerably lower cost. Replacing cereal flours with pulse flours will significantly improve the nutritional profile of products and renders possible nutritional content claims for protein and dietary fiber. Finally, North American-grown pulses are environmentally friendly, as they are used as rotational crops that rejuvenate soils and that require very low levels (if any) of agricultural chemical inputs.

Functional pulse ingredients

Pulses differ from legumes, such as soy or peanut (groundnut), in that they contain significant quantities of starch and virtually no oil. Pulses contain high levels (22-30%) of highly functional proteins (similar to soy proteins) and a significant portion of their starch fraction is in the form of resistant starch. Already, a plethora of highly functional pulse ingredients have been made available to product developers from a growing number of ingredient suppliers, including starches, proteins, dietary fibers, brans and starch-protein combinations. This is only the beginning.

Cost advantages

The relatively low cost of pulses as compared to other protein (milk, eggs, soy) or even starch sources (corn, tapioca) provides a low-cost basis for developing further-processed pulse ingredients. In addition, they exhibit relatively low price volatility, which protects processed foods against commodity price swings. That being said, there can still occur temporary price spikes for the more-highly processed ingredients such as pea protein isolate, which are reflective of rapidly increasing demand outstripping production capacity (as has happened in the last two years with pea protein isolate). Nonetheless, such spikes are temporary and limited to the more narrow pulse ingredient segments. The industry is still catching up to increasing consumer demands for food product attributes that only pulse-based ingredients are best positioned to satisfy. It will take time.

A review of this Webinar #4 was published by Food Navigator and can be found at:

The Link for the four archived webinars can be found at the US Dry Pea & Lentil Council’s website under the “Food Industry Tab” at: