‘Incredible appetite among consumers for produce delivery’

There is an incredible appetite among consumers for getting quality produce delivered to their door and this opening for direct selling is something farmers can capitalise on, according to Margaret Jeffares, founder of Good Food Ireland.

“People are becoming aware of how they spend their time and there is also a growing interest in buying sustainable food from local producers and farmers,” she said.

Covid-19 has provided the agri-food sector with new commercial opportunities. Many within the sector have looked to online and direct sales to fill the gap lost in food service purchasing and are supported by the government through trading online vouchers.

The Good Food Ireland founder said that investing in setting up e-commerce shops and social media platforms is well worthwhile.

‘Unprecedented’

“Demand during the national lockdown was unprecedented. Traffic to the Good Food Ireland website during that period increased by 44%,” said the Clare woman, who lives in Wexford with her husband, Des, a well-known blackcurrant producer.

“Investing in this area will never be wasted as demand for good food direct to consumers will continue and grow.

“The Good Food Ireland pioneering quality standard was set up 15 years ago. I wanted people to experience the food of our country and understand the cultural link between our food and our people, a phenomenon now well-known as farm to fork,” said Margaret.

“In 2006, I recognised a gap to link agri-food and tourism hospitality and crafted a brand to become the destination icon for both international visitors and domestic consumers looking for a quality local food and drink experience, sustainably supporting Irish farmers, food producers and fishermen,” she said.

The vision was to set standards, directing consumers around the country and giving them confidence and trust in the food they purchased, Margaret said.

“We put together strict criteria to ensure that the brand would represent good food based on the core principle of using quality Irish ingredients.

“At that time there were chefs, hoteliers and cookery school owners who were committed to using local produce, some with that philosophy for even 30 years but they weren’t telling their customers.

“Good Food Ireland brought them standout over their competitors and highlighted to customers their passionate commitment to local food,” said Margaret.

“A lot of people didn’t put any importance on where food was coming from, but that thankfully has changed since. Good Food Ireland helped influence change and worked with government agencies as well as promoting Ireland internationally as a food tourism destination,” she said.

Pushing open doors

“From an agri-food perspective, we created previously unexplored commercial opportunities and farm gate sales for agri-food producers with our large consumer following,” Margaret said.

“We did that through business-to-business connections of the Good Food Ireland network of enterprises. The Good Food Ireland producers were pushing open doors with committed chefs from a commercial sales perspective.

“From a consumer perspective, we influenced farm gate sales and food experiences on farms, with the initiation of farm tours and walks. People were encouraged to visit oyster and dairy farms, for example. There was a massive increase in farm gate sales and there is still huge scope for farmers to do more direct sales.

“At the end of the day, Good Food Ireland has a very big and loyal customer following as well as a large group of food producers. We are the link and give consumers assurances that they are purchasing quality local Irish food and drink. The producers are inspected to ensure that they meet the brand’s consumer promise. We don’t break that promise.

“For 15 years, everything has been about growing the credibility of the brand. We are the only all-island brand that directs consumers to quality Irish ingredient-led experiences at both farm produce level and restaurant/dining level,” said Margaret.

Even more value

The spike in demand during lockdown saw Good Food Ireland being in a position of being able to offer even more value following the call to action from consumers, she said. Assistance is given to producers through promotion on the Good Food Ireland website and social media channels to targeted consumers.

Good Food Ireland approved farmers can be out working on their tractors and take a photograph which can be immediately shared on our network.

“There is massive uncertainty for farmers selling into food services while retail remains strong. We also have a looming ‘no-deal’ Brexit which is causing massive uncertainty for farmers.

“However, there is scope for a lot of farmers to diversify and I’m overwhelmed by the innovation that is evident among farmers and other producers, out of necessity, mind you. They have looked at new markets and that has been the positive side,” Margaret said.

“As a marketing services company, we want to continue that and grow those opportunities that are there for the taking. The younger generation continue to be very aware of quality produce and feeding good ingredients to their children. That is very positive for the future.”