I always liked the title of Maurice O'Sullivan's great book.
When LinkedIn informed me last month that it's now twenty years since I founded Wild Orchard Natural Beverages it caught me a little by surprise. "Where has the time gone?" and all that sort of stuff. Then I begin to delve back into the far reaches of my memory and realised that, Yes it has been a long time since I opted out of the corporate world and that the early years of Wild Orchard are now in the distant past.
Craft Food Traders is just a baby of 3 years old at this point but even so has seen great change in the Food Industry and society in general.
However, leaving aside the once-in-a-lifetime and Black Swan events that are happening now with frightening regularity (Brexit, Trump, Covid-19) when I think about 20 years (almost 30 if I count my corporate stints) in the Food Industry what strikes me are 3 things; the people, how much has changed, how much has stayed the same.
While working in corporate I was aware of a attitude of slight superiority relative to those working in small business. By virtue of our having achieved a coveted corporate role and having access to the best of training, personal development tools and brilliant colleagues we are just that little bit better at business than our small business counterparts. We've got the salaries, cars and perks to prove it. Needless to say I was in for a surprise. Creating a viable small business is extremely difficult. Unless you are Sergey Brin or Steve Jobs it's not enough to be great at one thing. It's a requirement to be at least competent if not good or great in multiple disciplines. Sales, Finance, HR, Operations, Strategy, Marketing, Networking. The list goes on. Yes, I know the advice is to hire great people with strengths to compliment your weaknesses but that's not so easy for a startup or family business with low revenue and minimal funding. Yet many of us find a way. What is striking about the Small Business people you meet in the Irish Food Industry is their resilience, positive attitude and can do attitude. It's been a privilege and a joy to meet so many who love what they do and work so hard to make things happen.
How much has changed:
Food is food, right? End of the day, you can only do so much with it? Yes and No. In some ways we are still eating the same stuff, it's just that the street food of Mexico City or Bangalore can now be purchased in Dublin or Waterford. Therefore we have had food startups for all sorts of ethnic cuisine. On top of that, there has been a surge of activity in plant based foods and a lot of innovation in this area. Lab grown meat is another development that is only going to increase. We have also been processing foods in new ways. When we started Wild Orchard fruit smoothies were a concept that had originated on the west coast of the USA years ago but really took off in the late 90's. We rode that wave for a while. Fruit and vegetable smoothies are pretty mainstream now.
Lifestyle and Habits are where I have noticed the biggest change. Casual dining has exploded and the 3 square meal a day routine is rapidly disappearing as snacking and small meals take over. These meals are purchased now from trucks, small cafes, large cafes, convenience stores or provided free by the giant multinational employer. Food Businesses battle to be included on these programs.
How much has stayed the same:
As long as I have been in the Food Business there has been a move towards healthier diet and convenience. 20+ years is a long time to be moving.
Yes, much of the innovation is in health, wellness, brain food, mood food, etc. Against that we have rising obesity rates and governments feeling the need to tax sugary drinks in order to protect the population from themselves.
Our society will continue to be comprised of those who are very focused on their nutrition and eating healthy, those who will overindulge in high calorie, low nutrition food and those who fall into the scale somewhere between. We will continue to develop new products and packaging to appeal to our target markets.
Where are we going?
Craft Food Traders bring you the best of Natural Irish Food & Drinks.
This is our mission. We want to connect consumers to great Artisan Irish Drinks & Snacks.
We are grateful to have supplied so many consumers directly since we launched www.craftfoodtraders.ie in Sept 2020. We are also privileged to have worked with so many fantastic Irish food producers.
On we go for hopefully at least another 20 years.....