Food Wise 2025 predicts that over the next decade Ireland can increase the value of its agri-food exports by 85% to €19 billion, increase value-added to the sector by 70% and increase the value of primary production by 65%, stated Ross MacMathúna, Director of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland, the representative group for drinks manufacturers and suppliers in Ireland.
“The drinks industry is a firm ally in realising these objectives and will make a valuable contribution to Ireland’s exciting agri-food sector over the next 10 years,” he stated recently.
“The Irish whiskey sector is set to invest €1.1bn by 2025,” he continued, “There are 26 new or proposed distilleries across the country with annual exports of over €300 million, up 220% since 2003. Exports are set to double by 2020 and double again by 2030. The sector currently exports to 77 markets and aspires to grow global market share by 300% by 2030, from 4% to 12%. Employment is also set to grow by 30% by 2025, from 5,000 to 6,500.
“The brewing sector will also have a huge role to play, with beer production remaining the most important sector within the drinks industry in terms of indigenous manufacturing. The brewing sector has continued to invest over the past few years, with exports up 7% between 2012 and 2013. Direct employment now stands at almost 2,000, up from 1,500 in 2012 and the brewing sector continues to support over 3,000 farming families.”
At present, beverage exports exceed imports and there’s a high domestic content in alcohol exports. Ireland’s alcohol export performance reflects the strong performance in recent years of Irish Whiskey and there’s further potential to increase alcohol exports and to diversify markets, believes the Food Wise 2025 report.
Beverage industry exports rose 1% to €1.2 billion in 2014, driven by a continued increase in Irish whiskey exports which have increased by 60% since 2009.
The alcoholic beverage industry in Ireland accounts for 75% of total beverage exports and is broken down into spirits, beer and cider.
Ireland exports high value, branded alcohol beverages to over 125 markets worldwide and these are not susceptible to the fluctuations of the global commodity markets. Investment in the beverages sector has been growing at a substantial rate due to expansion in the whiskey sector as well as consolidation and investment in the beer sector.
One challenge that all have come to realise needs to be met is the need for significant working capital to fund the minimum three-year maturation process in the whiskey sector.
There are huge opportunities for growth in the whiskey and craft beer sector with plans not only to double whiskey exports but to increase the number of microbreweries to 100. Emerging markets in Asia and the explosion of the craft alcohol market in the US provide Irish companies with enormous potential to expand.
The ability of the sector to develop new markets will remain a key challenge and the alcoholic beverage industry needs a strong base of dairy farmers and grain growers supplying inputs to both the brewing and distilling sectors.
The report sees industry and state agencies working collaboratively to develop an Irish Whiskey and food-pairing trail as a major tourist attraction and to differentiate Irish food and drink produce.
It also envisages developing fiscal and other revenue-generating initiatives to enable the Irish whiskey industry to fund the minimum three-year maturation process.