DUBLIN, Ireland - The new ‘Prepared Consumer Food Centre’ was opened in Teagasc Ashtown, Dublin, on Thursday.
Minister for Agriculture Food & Marine, Michael Creed officiated at the opening ceremony, and took the time to speak of the challenges and opportunities facing the prepared consumer food sector, which traditionally has had low levels of research.
“The Prepared Consumer Foods sector accounted for €2.8 billion in agri-food sector exports in 2017. The UK accounts for 60% of PCF food and drink exports and is therefore significantly challenged by Brexit,” Creed said.
There are more than 500 manufacturing units spread across Ireland, directly employing more than 20,000 people. There is potential to create a significant number of direct jobs across the country as well as indirect jobs given that PCF companies are more labour-intensive than other parts of the food sector. However 76% of PCF companies in Ireland are small and investment in R&D within the sector has traditionally been low.
The €5 million investment in 2018 has been used for the purchase of specialist equipment which will provide companies with the opportunity to pilot the equipment, with a view to scaling up their own production and to enable adoption of novel technologies to meet evolving consumer demands and expectations.
“This investment will allow Teagasc to deliver a more responsive service for the Irish PCF sector, through specialist expertise, state of the art facilities and innovative ideas from Teagasc researchers and industry partners,” said the minister. “The investment will underpin technological capability and capacity to enable both researchers and industry to collaborate in private and public research projects in the prepared consumer foods arena. The capital investment will also enable the training of industry employees in advanced technologies.”
Teagasc Director Professor Gerry Boyle said: “This innovation centre will allow PCF manufacturers to cost effectively develop new products for commercialisation, address gaps in the food product development pipeline, develop deep consumer insight for target export markets, link with food related researchers and other companies interested in similar areas of research and have access to pilot equipment for testing products.”
PCF Council Chairman, Maurice Hickey stated: ‘‘The PCF sector has an ambitious vision to be recognised by 2025 as among the most advanced, efficient and sustainable PCF sectors globally. Innovation capability is central to delivering this vision and the PCF Technology Centre will be a central part of this. The Centre is also essential to address the more immediate challenges of Brexit, giving PCF company’s innovation options to maintain existing markets and diversify into new markets. We welcome the opening of the Centre and look forward to working with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Teagasc and the other agencies to achieve our ambitious vision for Prepared Consumer Foods in Ireland.”