Irish Dog Foods learns new market research tricks to target export growth

When Irish Dog Foods needed to learn more about the relationship between man and his best friend, their first port of call was the Enterprise Ireland Market Research Centre.

The award-winning manufacturer has worked with Enterprise Ireland to develop innovative new product ranges for export during a relationship spanning more than 10 years – but the partnership has stepped up a level in the last two years.

Marketing Manager, Darren Keating explains: “Irish Dog Foods has used the Market Research Centre for every new market we’ve entered in the past two years – Portugal, Germany, Korea and Spain.

Excellent access to information

“The access to information they provide you with is excellent. They give you the tools and facilities to be better prepared when you move into new markets. As a company, you learn and benefit from the process of working with the Market Research Centre.

“We might be having a conversation internally about whether to put some effort into Poland or Denmark. At that point, we have some key questions to ask, such as what is the size of the market, who are the big players, is it dominated by retailers, is it dominated by pet stores, is it dominated by brands, or by private labels?

“One of the best avenues we would use to answer these questions would be the reports which are available at the Market Research Centre. They can give us access to data by company, sector, market and general country information. We still have to clean the data, but we wouldn’t be able to do it as professionally, quickly or as comprehensively without the facilities that the Market Research Centre provides.”

Knowledge it takes to break new markets

After more than 25 years in business and with around 50 exports markets globally, Naas-based Irish Dog Foods is one of the most recognisable names in pet food retail across the globe. However, this old dog is always keen to learn new tricks when it comes to breaking in to new international markets.

Darren explains: “When we launched in South Korea this year it was the result of 26 months of planning and preparation.

One of the things we learned during our market research is that almost all the dogs are small – there are practically no large dogs in Korea because it’s mostly large population centres with apartment living. That meant we specifically targeted the owners of small dogs.

“We also learned that the average spend on pet food was very high in Korea, so we were able to target our very high-quality foods at the buyers and retailers. That information came from reports provided by the Market Research Centre. It meant that when we were making our pitches, we were knowledgeable, we were experienced, we knew what we were doing, and it was impressive in terms of the buyer listening to us.

“The impression the buyers got was, ‘these guys know what they’re doing. They’re not just throwing everything on the table, they have an understanding of what will work in my market. It wasn’t the reason why we got the business, but it was a big help and it did make our pitches more professional.”

New markets can be big revenue drivers

The new markets Irish Dog Foods has moved into recently are expected to become significant revenue drivers over the next five years, and the company plans to continue its work with the Market Research Centre.

Darren says: “Recently, we started thinking about targeting the Polish market. We want to know things like, what’s the percentage of dog-owning households, what’s the dog population, what is a consumption of dog food – and what about dry food versus wet food? We can get that information in reports from the Market Research Centre and it helps us really get into the detail of the dog food category in Poland.

“We can also use them for lead generation. Who are the top 20 retailers in Poland? Can I get a database of all the pet distributors in Poland? If we get 200 leads and there are 50 targetable leads after cleaning, then that’s a good start.”

“The Market Research Centre doesn’t do our work for us, but it does provide the material
for us to do our work – and that makes the process much easier.”

Learn more about Enterprise Ireland’s Market Diversification supports here.


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