Up to €2m will be invested in about 100 indigenous food businesses in Cork over the next three years as part of an ambitious joint city and county council strategy that aims to make the region the food capital of Ireland.
Details of the new Taste Cork initiative — which aims to promote food tourism and create a thriving food network in the region by linking and promoting producers, retailers, food service operators, and distributors — were unveiled at County Hall yesterday.
The strategy is the result of one of the largest collaborations of its kind between the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) in Cork, and the city and county councils.
It is hoped the five-year plan will enhance partnerships between key players in the region’s food sector and help promote its food production ecosystem. Since 2014, Cork’s LEOs have sanctioned over €1m in funding to help some 50 start-ups and established food companies, and helped deliver mentoring and training.
More than 200 jobs have been created by clients of Cork LEOs who participated in the Food Academy programme . Under Taste Cork, the LEOs plan to provide a further €2m in funding to 100 more food businesses, continue the mentoring and training, and ramp up their involvement in the Food Academy.
In a joint statement, Tim Lucey, chief executive of Cork County Council, and Ann Doherty, chief executive of Cork City Council, said they were delighted to be involved in a joint approach to the strategy.
“The food sector’s significant contribution to the local economy means that the need for an integrated food strategy is vital to nurture and sustain the development of local SME food and drink businesses,” they said.
“Ireland’s agri-food sector is positioned at the forefront of the country’s economic growth so there has never been a better time to act and embrace our region’s strengths.
“Throughout Cork, a diverse selection of food training and food marketing initiatives are under way and now, through the Taste Cork brand, these programmes can enjoy better linkages and cross-promotion.”
Taste Cork’s Rebecca O’Keeffe said research shows almost 70% of consumers feel it is very important to buy local produce. “An important part of the strategy is the formation of a comprehensive directory of food producers and related businesses which Taste Cork is developing and which will also be of interest to not only the population of Cork but also to the 2.3m visitors to the county each year.”