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Innovation nation

Ireland may be known as the island of saints and scholars, but it has fast become a multinational mecca. Sheelagh Daly, foreign direct investment (FDI) manager with Enterprise Ireland (EI) tells Bernie Commins why Ireland is the go-to location for global food and beverage companies 

EI is the national government agency that, among many things, is responsible for attracting inward investment to Ireland’s food and beverage sector. Facilitated by its network of 39 offices worldwide, EI works globally with companies that are considering expansion to make Ireland their preferred location for investment. 

Six of the world’s biggest food and beverage companies are already located here, so Ireland must be doing something right. It is actually doing a lot of things right, says Sheelagh, who references the likes of Danone, Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, and Abbott Nutrition among that stellar line-up.

Strong network

“Ireland has a core defining strength due to decades of research in the food and beverage sector,” says Sheelagh. “We have a unique network of highly collaborative agencies and support institutions that a company becomes part of when they locate here. Food and beverage companies have stated that this makes a big difference.”

That unique network includes a number of agencies and educational facilities including Teagasc (the Agriculture and Food Development Authority), which is the national body providing integrated research, advisory and training services to the food and agriculture industry. Additionally, Teagasc’s Moorepark Research and Innovation Centre, which is responsible for all aspects of dairy-production research, operates a joint venture company called Moorepark Technology Limited (MTL), which provides a commercial pilot plant and research services for food-industry customers.

Bord Bia (Irish Food Board) supports food and drink manufacturers in Ireland to find new markets through its global network of offices; and it operates Origin Green, which is the world’s first national food and drink sustainability programme.

Institutions including, but not limited to, University College Cork, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, and Munster Technical University lead the way in food technology and food microbiology research programmes as well as in the areas of functional ingredients, food safety, regulatory affairs, and risk analysis

And, there are eight technology centres operational in Ireland, all of which are part-funded by EI, and focus on areas such as dairy, functional foods and ingredients, advanced manufacturing processes, AI and machine learning, and smart agri-food devices. 

“All of this positions us uniquely and shows a commitment from Government to the [food and beverage] sector,” says Sheelagh. “There are many benefits to companies that embed themselves in this eco system,” she adds.  

Of course, it is not irrelevant that Ireland has the lowest corporation tax rate in Europe, as well as a 25% R&D tax credit. And the availability of talent is another significant draw. “We have a really strong base of talent across the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) sectors, and in particular in food sciences” says Sheelagh. “We also have the highest proportion of STEM graduates in Europe, per capita, and we have the highest proportion of third-level graduates in Europe, again, per capita. We have a compelling offer in terms of our highly educated workforce in the science and technology area.”

FDI exports value

In 2021, the value of exports from EI-supported food and beverage FDI companies was more than €3.5bn with 11,000 employees working across those companies. “The spend in the Irish economy was over €2.5bn so these companies are really important, and we continue to work with them over the long term once they are located here,” explains Sheelagh. 

“For example, we are supporting Diageo with its new net-zero brewery; we are working with Pernod Ricard on its new distillery; and we are supporting Danone with its net-zero project in its processing plant, too.” EI also plays a key role in providing multinationals with property solutions, partners, and professional services, as well as a wide range of supports for scaling including funding for research and development. Sheelagh’s message is if your business is focused on the evolution of food, then Ireland is the place for you. It is, after all, an innovation nation.


EI’s main reasons to invest in Ireland 

  • A Government that backs innovation, investment and growth.

  • Home to many of the world’s major food multinationals.

  • A world-class R&D and food-science ecosystem.

  • Partnerships with leading universities, academics and researchers.

  • Quality-assured raw materials and ingredients.

  • Deep expertise in sustainable food and drink production.

  • World-leading food-safety standards.

Commitment to Ireland

  • Since 2005, Mondelèz International has invested €100m in automation in its Dublin chocolate-making factory.

  • In 2018, US cheese, whey and lactose producer Leprino Foods partnered with Glanbia to develop a €130m mozzarella cheese facility in Portlaoise.

  • In 2022, Diageo announced plans to invest €200m, in Ireland’s first purpose-built carbon-neutral brewery on a greenfield site in Co. Kildare.

  • In 2022, Irish Distillers announced it will invest €250m euro to build a new distillery in Midleton, Co. Cork.

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