The great thing about the drinks market is that everyone ahs their place given the diverse tastes and interests of consumers. Craft drinks (alcoholic & non-alcoholic) are becoming increasingly popular and as with all companies export should form some part of their thinking at some stage. Some key issues to keep in mind are: Branding (How the drink is packaged is very important both to stand out on the shelves and to make a lasting visual impact), Competitions (Where possible enter as many competitions as possible both as a company and for the product. This can be great PR and helps get the name out there), Clever Marketing (You don't need to spend loads of money to be successful. Creativity is the main asset and online videos and social media is a great equaliser, Taste & Appearance (The most obvious point but make sure your drink tastes good to a high number of people and not just your family, friends or you personally, Getting the product out there! (Don't get frustrated that the big multiples are not stocking your product straight away. Build it step by step one location at a time).
As markets change and consumers develop new behaviours there are always going to be new opportunities in the sector. For example the main opportunity in the dairy sector is the upcoming abolition of the milk quota. As a result expansion is the buzzword for many diary producers and many have made significant investments in infrastructure upgrades with that in mind. Other areas of the export market where Irish firms have made a big impact include infant formula and sports nutrition, both growth industries internationally. Organic foods is still a very trending industry with significant add on value potential and from the drinks perspective the expanding sub sector of craft beers has been an emerging trend taking many by surprise by its success (Porterhouse, O Hara's, etc).
There are a number of issues impacting on the industry at the moment and the degree of influence of each will depend on the size and nature of your business. Some of the main issues include: competitive raw material supply (sustainable supply at a competitive prices), access to credit (as in other industries), food regulation and compliance costs (higher than other industries given the nature of what's involved), retail buying power (being squeezed on prices by the large multiples), research and innovation on the industry (keeping up with competitors and future trends), consumer information requirements (greater customer awareness and consciousness of content of products) and responsible consumption of food and drink (changing customer trends towards moderation and sustainable/green products).