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WITS member responds to COVID-19 challenges in the food industry

  • 16 November 2020

WITS member Oonagh Monahan has responded to the COVID-19 challenges in the food industry with a Food & Drinks Producers Directory on her blog Oonagheats.com.

Oonagh writes:

In April 2020 it became apparent very quickly that many small food producers were at risk of losing their livelihoods. Restaurants and hotels were closed as COVID-19 took hold in the country. Some producers moved quickly to try to replace lost income by seeking out new customers. One solution was to move sales on-line and while some producers already had an e-commerce website, many, if not most, did not.

As a food busines consultant working in the sector for many years, I wanted to be able to support the food & drinks producers in some way and so I set up a free on-line Food & Drinks Producers Directory on by blog oonagheats.com to help them to find new customers and new routes to market. The directory lists, by county, food and drinks producers who are currently selling via their own on line (e-commerce) shop, and with delivery (not collection).

While there were lots of supports currently being offered to producers in response to the crisis, such as free online seminars, funding, training for remote working etc., all of which are great, but take time that the producers just do not have at the moment. The directory provides a technical solution, a practical resource to help the producers continue to sell their foods and drinks and reach their customers. It also has the potential to help them grow their businesses by reaching new customers as existing customers, especially the food service market, disappear. Furthermore, producers were encouraged to embrace technology, and to develop an e-commerce site if they didn’t already have one.

In April, there were 40 producers listed. Today there are 219 from 32 counties, and growing! The Directory can be found here. There is no fee for this, it is a free service and I am doing it voluntarily.

I have been working as a food business mentor and consultant for 12 years and am acutely aware of the needs of this sector. My clients include those from pre-startup to exporters, artisans and large food producers. I graduated from UCG with a BSc in Biochemistry and Microbiology. In 1986 I interned at Yale University (Department of Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry). I went on to complete a Post Graduate Diploma in Food Science and Technology from DIT (Kevin St.) and subsequently won a scholarship from H.J.Heinz to complete research leading to a Master of Engineering Science from UCD. In 2017 I completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Business & Management at Queen’s University Belfast.

I am a Chartered Scientist (Science Council UK), a Fellow of the Institute of Food Science and Technology (UK), a Fellow of the Institute of Food Science and Technology of Ireland, and a Certified Management Consultant. My business, Alpha Omega Consultants, works with SME businesses across the island of Ireland in the area of food business development, innovation, technology transfer and research project management.

In 2013, the first edition of my book, Money for Jam – the Essential Guide to Starting Your Own Small Food Business, was published by Oak Tree Press. The 2nd, updated edition was published in 2017.