Irish food and drink networks – collaborate to compete!
By ELEANOR McGILLIE
FOOD and drink networks are being established all over Ireland with many counties already having their networks established, many others are still in their infancy and some have none at all.
From October 2019 to December 2020 I was lucky enough to work with a phenomenal group of people from the food and drink sector in County Wicklow – The Garden of Ireland.
I was one of the external consultants appointed to implement the county’s food and beverage strategy which was launched at the famous Killruddery House in April 2019. What has happened since the official launch of the strategy is a total credit to Wicklow County Council, County Wicklow Partnership, Wicklow’s Local Enterprise Office, the entrepreneurs, distillers, chefs, brewers and food and drink producers who committed so much of their time throughout to assist us in the strategy implementation and in the creation of the county’s food and drink network – Wicklow Naturally.
County Wicklow is a stunning county with its rugged mountains and spectacular lakes, monastic sites, wildlife and forests – but it’s food and drink scene is simply amazing.
Before lockdown in March 2020, we had the opportunity to get down and meet so many of the most amazing food and drink producers who I would find myself working with for the following 14 months including just some of the below;
- Powerscourt Distillery
- Wicklow Way Wines (Winery)
- Glendalough Distillery
- Wicklow Wolf Brewery
- The Wicklow Brewery
- Bailey’s Farm
- Rhoda’s Cocoa
- Catherine Fulvio
- The Chocolate Garden of Ireland
- Sukhi’s India
- Kilmullen Farm
- Tipi Adventures Ireland
- Wild Irish Game among many others…..
A large part of the strategy implementation was to Tell The Wicklow Story and this was done through the creation of the county’s food and drink network – Wicklow Naturally
My role for the entirety of the project was to oversee the development of a marketing strategy for the network including website development and manage a social media campaign. This included just some of the following;
- establishing, writing and agreeing a Key Messaging Plan in conjunction with the key stakeholders
- agreeing a communications strategy
- establishing an editorial publishing schedule for the duration of the project
- using a brand journalism approach to create business stories for the food and drink network
- project managing the design and development of the network’s new website
- management of the website
- engaging with members
- public relations
- creating content and managing the social media campaign
- managing a virtual month long celebration of Wicklow’s food and drink producers
- and so on……
Other actions I was involved in throughout the project included engaging with officers from Failte Ireland, preparing the team for entering the next Foodie Destinations Ireland, developing food activity calendars, networking and working with a team of chefs to create Wicklow’s signature dishes which were showcased on RTE Nationwide.
There were many other elements of the strategy which focused on getting local food into local retailers, addressing food poverty, working with a range of subgroups etc. On my behalf, I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who I worked closely with for 14 months and I wish every food and drink business in the Wicklow Naturally food and drink network, every success.