Hi, I’m Dara, and I love food. I also love science…

ESOF, hosted in Turin, showcased several food science discussions, including; “Plants for Sustainable Food Supply,” “Personalized Nutrition” and “State of the Art Nanofood technology.”

Having attended these lectures, I began to ponder; how does the Irish Food and Drink Sector fit into our “Smart Economy.”

Well, it is clear that the sciences (e.g. Biotechnology) are key to a healthier, more sustainable and greener Industry. An exciting opportunity, in an Irish context, exists in the areas of Nutriceuticals and particularly; Nutrigenomics – where consumers may buy food and drink to satisfy hunger and thirst, but in a way which supports their lifestyle and genetic composition. This can be complemented by the concept of “you are what you eat.”

So, Nutrigenomics relates to how nutrition and genetics interact. It’s the impact of inherited traits on the response to a specific dietary pattern, functional food or supplement on a specific health outcome.

Manufacturers are interested as the technology may enable the development of food/drink products with targeted health benefits. These products may address public concern about specific lifestyle diseases.

We, as a country are heavily dependent on foreign companies (75% of GDP is made up from US based firms.)

Government has been praised for transforming Ireland into a competitive knowledge economy.  Criticism has been directed at government for not giving enough support to indigenous firms.

The Food and Drink Industry is Ireland’s largest indigenous Industry, it is the largest exporter (170 countries €8.6 billion) and we are one of the largest food producers in Europe. Approximately 65% of exports from indigenous firms operate in this sector. The Industry accounts for 8.1% of employment (51,600 directly and 60,000 in distribution and other services) and approximately 10% of GDP.

The opportunity is to focus on higher value opportunities, such as nutrigenomics. Ireland’s “smart economy” means we may merge the food industry with our expertise in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.  We must drive strategic, indigenous innovation, to ensure long-term competitiveness and development. If we are to continue, as a small country punching above its weight, we must build on such core competencies.

That’s my opinion… what is yours? All comments are welcome!