The practice presents a development project with an aim of enhancing growth and internationalisation in food industry SMEs within three Ostrobothnian regions.
Healthy, clean and safe food is a rising trend in the world food markets, creating opportunities for food SMEs also. Many SMEs, however, struggle taking advantage of the trend in the international food markets facing many challenges such as small scale of production, narrow product selection, lack of resources and knowledge.
In order to tackle this challenge a development project was set up around three Ostrobothnian regions: South Ostrobothnia, Ostrobothnia and Central Ostrobothnia. The project was a collaboration of 4 partners: Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences (coordinator of the projects), Viexpo Ltd. (a business consulting company focused on exporting), University of Vaasa and Proficit Partners Ltd. (a business consulting company focused on growth and internationalisation). And it was funded under the EAFRD.
The aim of the project was to enhance the knowledge and know-how of small food sector SMEs on development and marketing of well-branded and high-added-value food products. The aim was to activate and guide companies in brand marketing, strengthen existing networks, open connections to new distribution channels and support companies in growth and internationalisation.
The project was divided in four work packages:
WP1: Survey on the present state of SMEs,
WP2: Seminar series on exporting and branding for food SMEs,
WP3: Creation of online training materials for food SMEs and
WP4: Building up an expert and mentoring network.
The project was funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. Total budget was 207 568 EUR with 80 % support from the regional EAFRD. 85 % of the budget was directed to staff and office & admin. costs. The rest 15 % was directed to organisation of seminars and material creation.
Evidence of success
By completing the online learning materials and training seminars the local food SMEs have enhanced their skills and knowledge related to branding, marketing and exporting. The project has improved the SMEs' abilities to take their first steps towards internationalisation and exporting. Towards its end the project has generated new ideas for future cooperation and those ideas will be put forward in new company specific development projects.
Initially the partners wished that some food products could be tested in foreign markets. Getting products in foreign markets is however a long process demanding the products to be ready in all levels. Here the project run out of time and means as the funding did not allow direct assistance for SMEs
Potential for learning or transfer
The good practice is an example of a project run buy food business development organisations who wish to enhance the skills and knowledge of local food SMEs on branding and exporting. Here the interested actors might take example of the project structure and activities for their own development projects.
It is important that the project involves expert organisations that concretely work with the subject of the project. In this specific project the involvement of the Viexpo has been particularly important and guaranteed that real connections and networks are formed.
After all the project is only a beginning for more concrete actions on internationalisation and exporting, and thus, functions as a good starting point for more concrete actions to support food sector SMEs in their internationalisation and exporting activities.
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