Popularity of Irish food in the United States has never been higher
Americans, even non-Irish ones, can’t get enough of items such as butter, chocolate and cheese made in Ireland
According to Bord Bia, dairy and meat sectors were the strongest performing categories in Irish exports last year as the value of Irish food and drink exports increased by 12 percent.
Ireland is the largest exporter of beef in the Northern hemisphere. It produces over 50% of the world’s cream liqueur, and Irish whiskey continues to be one of the fasting growing industries in the U.S.
Consumer dairy is also a strong growth area. In May, the Irish Food Board reported record sales of Kerrygold as it enters its 50th year. The popular brand continues to grow its market share and is ranked as the number one imported butter in the U.S.
Commenting on the figures, Kevin Lane, chief executive of the Irish Dairy Board said, “The international rollout of our new look Kerrygold brand has been tremendously well received, culminating in record sales, and we continue to enhance our presence in key export regions.”
The demand for such Irish products is fueled not merely by consumers of Irish descent, but food enthusiasts who feel Ireland has a positive image for food.
“These products underscore the quality ingredients that Ireland is known for,” Coyle said. “Those products are bought by people who want good quality.”
“Our agriculture system is still very rural and family based. Everything comes from the land, the dairy is sourced from cows eating the grass. It tends to be all across the country in rural communities.
“Customers are not just Irish-born or Irish of American heritage. It’s mainstream America as well.”
Coyle said that Bord Bia views Kerrygold “as very mainstream over here. The farmhouse cheese sector has exploded.”
Currently there are over 50 farmhouses in Ireland making over 150 different cheeses, over 10 of which are available in the U.S.
“People appreciate a quality product that is all natural, and as a result Irish dairy is targeting everybody who appreciates good food,” Coyle added.
Developing a recognizable brand and getting Irish products into mainstream stores takes time and considerable effort.
“A lot of Irish food companies aspire to sell here in the U.S. as it’s the largest grocery market in the world,” Coyle said.
“There are a lot of people in the chain and it’s a challenging market because of the costs of getting here.”
For now, according to Coyle, it will remain challenging for companies to establish a foothold in the conventional U.S. market.
One Irish company gaining traction in the U.S. is Lily O’Brien’s chocolate café in Bryant Park in Manhattan. In March 2009, the Irish chocolate company opened its flagship store in the heart of Midtown.
Mary Ann O’Brien established the business in 1992, when she began making chocolates in her kitchen at home in Kildare. She named the store after her daughter Lily.
From these humble beginnings, Lily O'Brien's Chocolates has evolved into a well-known brand which manufactures over 80 tons of chocolate per week and is sold all over the globe.
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