Have you an idea for an agri-food business with global appeal?

Food Works, which claims to be Ireland’s leading accelerator programme for food and drink start-ups, is seeking applicants for 2017.

Run by Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and Teagasc, the programme aims to foster and encourage innovative new product ideas which satisfy a genuine market need.

It is also hoped the programme will support the growth of the Irish food industry on a global scale.

Since 2012, Food Works has worked with almost 70 start-ups in developing scaleable and export-focused business ideas.

To date, one in five of the start-ups that have taken part in the programme have achieved export success.

A total of €1.5m was generated in export sales in 2016 alone, figures show.

In the past, the programme has secured over €2m in funding from Enterprise Ireland.

The programme aims to guide successful participants from the initial concept phase, right through to the development of a winning food product with international appeal and global export potential.

A full range of practical business supports designed to provide participants with an investor-ready business plan is also included.

Some of the programme supports include consumer market research, one-to-one mentoring, technical advice, possible investors and state funding.

Participants are also provided with the opportunity to undertake commercial viability testing, in addition to ‘fast track’ access to research and development facilities.

‘Food Works for us was an absolute game-changer’

In 2016, eight start-up food and drinks companies took part in the Food Works programme.

Out of these participants, four are believed to be currently trading, three are ready to launch and one is still in development.

Since the previous programme came to an end on January 31, 2017, Founder of Pow Cow, Niall Moloney, believes Food Works was one of the best things his company has done since its launch.

“With Pow Cow we have developed the first high-protein frozen yogurt on the market, which provides a guilt-free rich, creamy indulgent treat while containing 80% less sugar than standard branded ice-creams.

The programme gave us the insights and knowledge to look at our business as a whole and put a strategic plan in place, which allows us to accelerate our growth.

Taking part in the programme was an absolute game-changer, according to co-founder of the Wicked Food Company, Alison Cummins.

“Food Works for us was an absolute game-changer. To have the support of the three agencies was phenomenal and invaluable to our business.

“We have no doubt that with their help and backing the sky is the limit for us,” she said.

Bord Bia Picture Conor McCabe photography

Identifying the strong point of difference for Black Twist, a mixed coffee and Irish whiskey drink, posed one of the greatest challenges for Conor Coughlan’s company during the programme.

The consumer research with Bord Bia was the most important part of the process for me, given the unique nature of my product.

“It really helped me understand the mind-set of the consumer and the bartender, which guided the final branding and messaging.

“The input from Enterprise Ireland, Teagasc and fantastic industry advisors supported this in a way that ensured the proposition was as strong as it could be by the end of the programme,” he said.

How to apply?

Individuals or companies who would like to learn more about the Food Works programme are asked to register for an introductory meeting in advance of completing a formal application.

A series of regional meetings with the Food Works team are scheduled to take place in various locations across the country over the next three months.

Meetings will take place in:

• Dublin – Tuesday, March 28.
• Dundalk – Tuesday, April 18.
• Galway – Tuesday, April 25.
• Dublin – Tuesday, May 16.
• Cork – Tuesday, June 6.
• Dublin – Tuesday, June 27.

Following the formal application process, finalists will be shortlisted to take part in an industry-led bootcamp.

The successful final programme participants will be selected once the bootcamp has been completed.