Irish beauty brands in the global spotlight at Cosmoprof

Around the world, Ireland has a strong brand reputation for high quality, natural, sustainable products in multiple sectors. That is particularly true of beauty and cosmetics, a sector in which many Irish entrepreneurs are rising.


For the first time, Irish beauty and cosmetics companies will be showcased at a national pavilion at Cosmoprof Worldwide in the Italian city of Bologna next March.


This is the largest beauty trade event in Europe and one of the leading trade shows for the sector in the world, explains Rachael James, Senior Development Adviser, Retail, Consumer & Online, Enterprise Ireland.


With 220,000 visitors and more than 2,700 exhibitors from 70 countries, Cosmoprof is considered to be the meeting ground for sourcing new buyers, scouting distributors, and gauging competitor activity.


“For Irish brands with international ambition, it’s undoubtedly a valuable opportunity to position themselves in front of buyers and alongside best-in-class European counterparts,” says James.


“While some Irish brands have exhibited individually at Cosmoprof in the past, this is the first time they will be curated together as part of a high-impact national pavilion, which will undoubtedly attract high footfall at the event.”

Digital and in-store sales powering growth

The Cosmoprof pavilion is another stepping stone in the stellar growth of the Irish beauty and cosmetic sector, which saw double-digit growth in both sales and exports in 2021.


Much of this growth has been driven by digital tools powering online sales, but Irish brands are increasingly securing shelf space in international retail chains and opening their own stores.


On the back of significant online sales, natural ingredient and science-driven skincare company Pestle & Mortar (founded by Sonia Deasy) has recently opened in Kildare Village.


Similarly, Fragrances of Ireland, which continues to supply a growing digital audience and premium USA stores, has also opened a new sea-inspired flagship Inis store in the upscale resort of Huntingdon Beach, south of Los Angeles.


Another young company, Sculpted by Aimee Connolly, has achieved significant success selling into Boots stores across the UK and has recently opened its own store in Dublin’s Grafton Street.


Other vibrant younger Irish brands leading the way include Skingredients, founded by entrepreneur and skin guru Jennifer Rock, along with Nunaia, Ella & Jo Cosmetics, Nutramara and Frances Prescott.


“Likewise, we’re seeing strong growth by companies such as The Kind Brand Company (TanOrganic and VeganTan), The Handmade Soap Company, The Burren Perfumery, VOYA and Green Angel,” adds James. “They’re all leading the way in the field with impressive growth and exports to multiple markets.”


All these brands are characterised by a commitment to quality and excellence in terms of ingredients.

Supporting growth in uncertain times

At Enterprise Ireland, we are working to build a collaborative environment for these companies to scale further internationally, and their success is growing, despite ongoing market uncertainty and global issues. 


“Health and beauty, like every other sector, faces unprecedented challenges, including difficulties around supply chain and logistics, inflation, higher ingredient costs and staffing challenges,” says James.


“The client companies we work with in this sector strive to become lean, more digital and more sustainable so as to remain competitive.”

Digital development is high priority

Key priorities for many of these firms include developing and investing in digital delivery channels, which are vital to exporting and the need to offer sustainable products and packaging, with the company ethos informing that work.


“Through Enterprise Ireland supports, our clients are developing their digitalisation roadmap,” says James. “They’re optimising their e-commerce platforms and using automation where appropriate to reduce operational costs and further enhance their client experience, whether they are selling to businesses or consumers.

Enterprise Ireland gives global support

Our network of 40 overseas offices actively supports clients as they embark on entering new markets, helping with market discovery and research, making introductions and bringing buyers to Ireland. We also always advise clients to make full use of Enterprise Ireland’s Market Research Centre in Dublin too. 


On the ground, the efforts to develop the national pavilion at Cosmoprof are being led by Enterprise Ireland’s Roberta Di Gesu’ in Milan, Jane Greene in Dusseldorf and our director in Italy, John Roche. The Enterprise Ireland global teams are also working to bring buyers to the event to meet our client companies.


“Cosmoprof 2022, held earlier this year, was the first physical Cosmoprof since the pandemic, and it ultimately proved to be a fundamental step in restoring confidence in the entire beauty sector and confirmed the event’s importance globally,” said Di Gesu’ from Enterprise Ireland’s Milan office.


“Cosmoprof is by far the most important sectoral trade show for beauty and cosmetic enterprises in Europe,” she added. “Companies attending will have the opportunity to meet with representatives from newcomers, established brands, retail chains, online marketplaces such as Amazon, and international agents and distributors,” she added.


If you’re interested in exhibiting at the Ireland pavilion at Cosmoprof (March 16 to 18), please get in touch with


Irish companies are rocketing into the space industry - Image of space and galaxies

How Irish companies are rocketing into the space industry


Ireland may not be the first country to spring to mind when you talk about space travel or exploration, but recently this industry has proved itself to have plenty of opportunities for Irish innovation, both from companies and research bodies.


The James Webb Space Telescope


Many businesses based in Ireland are already working in the area, thanks to our involvement with the European Space Agency (ESA). What’s more, several Irish companies are now playing a pivotal role in some of the most thrilling and high-profile space missions.

One such mission was the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST, or simply Webb), the next great space science observatory following the famous Hubble Telescope.

The Webb was launched from ESA’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on Christmas Day 2021. It now resides one-and-a-half million kilometres from Earth, hovering in line with our planet as it orbits the sun.

Over 25 years in development, the Webb telescope has the ability to look back 13.5 billion years in time to observe the birth of the first galaxies and the lifecycle of stars and exoplanets.

Webb follows the Hubble Telescope in the line of great space observatories. Both have different scientific capabilities and will operate together, complementing each other, for several years.

In fact, according to Bryan Rodgers, Senior Development Executive at Enterprise Ireland and a member of the Irish delegation to the ESA, Webb has the capacity to do far more than the Hubble.

“The Webb has over six times the light-gathering capacity and is a hundred times more sensitive, with the ability to peer through clouds of dust by capturing light in the infrared part of the spectrum.”

“By looking back to the early universe using infrared detectors, Webb hopes to answer some vital questions about the formation of our universe, the make-up of so-called dark matter, and what the development of galaxies can tell us about the future of the universe.”


How Irish companies contributed to the development and launch of the JWST


Webb is the result of an international project led by NASA with the ESA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Within the ESA’s contribution, two Irish companies and an Irish research institute played significant roles in the development of the Webb’s scientific instruments and in its launch into space.

“Firstly, there was significant Irish input into the development of the infrared detector technology,” comments Bryan. “Professor Tom Ray of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) was Co-Principal Investigator for the Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI) on Webb, which will produce images and spectra with unprecedented sharpness and sensitivity.”

“Professor Tom Ray and his team from DIAS also provided MIRI’s infrared filters, which breaks up the light into its various components, and imaging software that will analyse the instrument data sent back to Earth and produce scientific images.”

An Irish company also played an important role in Webb’s launch into space via an Ariane 5 launcher.

Réaltra Space Systems Engineering designed and manufactured the video imaging system onboard the Ariane 5 launch vehicle, which gave us impressive high-definition video images of the separation of the launcher’s fairing and separation of the telescope itself,” says Bryan.

“The final images of Webb moving into space on Christmas Day in 2021 came from Réaltra’s technology.”

Interestingly, Réaltra’s system was originally designed for the Ariane 6 launch vehicle, which is due its first flight in the second half of 2022.

“In addition, a second Irish company, Nammo Ireland, provided structural supports for the Vulcain engine that powers Ariane 5 – and will be involved in producing components for both the Vulcain and Vinci engines on the new Ariane 6 launch vehicle.”


Opportunities for Irish businesses in the space industry


The involvement of these Irish entities came about as a result of Ireland’s membership of the ESA, which is managed through the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Enterprise Ireland plays a huge role in enabling this work, by supporting and guiding Irish companies and research institutes in developing technologies through ESA programmes, and in commercialising these technologies in the worldwide space market, with over 100 companies supported to date.

“The success of the Irish entities involved in the ground-breaking JWST project underlines the growth in opportunities in the commercial space market for innovative Irish companies with exciting technologies that can be used in many different sectors, such as automotive and medical,” notes Bryan.

“These opportunities will only become more plentiful as our understanding of space grows and develops. We are confident that more Irish companies will be involved in such thrilling projects in the future.”


Contact Bryan Rodgers to find out how Enterprise Ireland can help you successfully bid for European Space Agency contracts or explore other opportunities in the space industry.


graph with export data

Using market intelligence to inform your export plan

The saying that ‘knowledge is power’ is certainly true of successful exporting. Companies must understand their customers’ requirements, cultural considerations, market trends and what competitors in the market are doing, in order to succeed.

Insights gained from high-quality market research are essential for good business decisions for companies with the ambition to grow, export and, indeed, survive. While successful products and services are built on sound market research, a continual process of keeping up-to-date with business intelligence is required, which can be time-consuming and costly.


Market Research Centre

That is one reason Enterprise Ireland’s Market Research Centre is such a valuable resource. It is the largest repository of business intelligence in Ireland and contains thousands of world-class market research insights, available to Enterprise Ireland supported companies.

Reports include company, sector, market and country information, which help businesses to explore opportunities and compete in international markets. We use databases from blue-chip information providers such as GartnerFrost & Sullivan, Mintel and others, which provide authoritative, verified information that is independent and reliable. Some of these reports cost tens of thousands of euro individually, so the value of accessing the service is immense.


Using market intelligence to assess new markets

The Market Research Centre is staffed by eight information specialists who help clients locate the most appropriate sources of knowledge for their requirements. The specialists can track down niche market intelligence that is not available through internet research and can also facilitate access to industry analysts to provide bespoke briefings that deep-dive into subject areas.

While the UK and European markets remain vitally important for exporters, increasingly diversification into more distant markets is a strategic option. Critical to all such business decisions is access to authoritative market research.


Using insights to make an impact

An example of how the centre helps companies to explore opportunities in overseas markets is workforce travel company Roomex. Over the last two years, the company has targeted the UK and Germany and is now looking at the huge potential of the US market. Information specialists helped the company gain valuable insights by providing access to global company, country, market and sector data which helped the Roomex to analyse their target customer and competitor base.

Enterprise Ireland’s research hub offers access to extensive predictive research on future trends, which is invaluable for companies interested in innovation. Knowledge of what might impact a market next provides an opportunity to develop new products or solutions. There are huge opportunities arising from disruptive technologies, such as driver-less cars, but also risks to companies which are not looking ahead

Growing your business

Companies which are serious about exporting, growing and future-proofing their business should put continuous research at the heart of their strategy. If your company is considering expanding into new markets the Market Research Centre’s extensive resources and expertise should be your first port of call.

Contact the Market Research Centre today.

Key questions to ask at your Singaporean Market Advisor meeting

Singapore, the gateway to SE Asia, is the regional business hub for ASEAN and the wider Asia Pacific region, providing stability and highly educated workforce, making it the perfect location to create a base.

If you are considering doing business in Singapore, please be sure to explore our top tips to enter the market below and also be sure to reach out to our team in Singapore

  • What are the core sectors and what sectors should I avoid?
  • Will I need a local partner company?
  • What kind of obstacles should I expect when entering Singapore?
  • What local competitors are active in this market?
  • What social norms should I be cognizant of when engaging in meetings with local people?
  • Will I need to set up an office in the region?
  • Will I need to hire local staff?
  • Can I relocate Irish staff in this region?

For more, please reach out to the Singapore region MA here and be sure to check out our Going Global Guide 

If you would like to know what to prepare ahead of your first MA call, click the graphic below

Enterprise Ireland’s top tips for entering the Spanish and Portuguese markets

Historically pillars of trade, the Iberian nations of Spain and Portugal offer exceptional export opportunities to Irish companies

Home to the international powerhouses of Inditex, Banco Santander, BBVA, Ferrovial, and TAP (Transportes Aereos Portugueses), the purchasing power in this market, along with the cordial nature of the population, makes it a highly attractive export region. The team in Enterprise Ireland’s Madrid office are here to support you in entering this dynamic and growing market.

  • Do your research. The Spanish and Portuguese populations combined amass to more than 10 times that of Ireland, while Iberia’s landmass is 7 times larger than Ireland’s. With more people, comes more business and innovation, and thus more competition. Really get to know the market you’re entering, and who you’ll be competing with.
  • Create a great elevator pitch. Spanish and Portuguese businesses are more hierarchal in nature, and they like to work on equal terms, so make sure you are bringing your best to the table, as you can presume they are. A good elevator pitch that clearly explains who you are, what you do, and what you can offer is a great way of proving your interest and significance. First impressions and personal relationships are important here.
  • Have a summarised value proposition. This is a highly price-sensitive market. Being price competitive will open the door to a consumer base of more than 50 million. However, having a good USP and a clear value proposition will help you to find a successful gap in the market. There is great purchasing power in Spain and Portugal, but you must find a way for your company to tap into it.
  • Be aware of your distribution channel. If you intend to export to, or scale in this market, know how you will make that happen. Consider the steps that must be taken between your product/service in Ireland and your customer in Spain or Portugal. Assess the potential hurdles in providing your good or service to this market.
  • You and/or your product need to speak the local language. Overcoming language barriers can be one of the most difficult aspects of exporting to this market. English levels vary significantly geographically and by sector. Having a trusted translator may be necessary for meetings and correspondence, which EI Madrid can help you with. More practically, your product itself must be accessible to the population you are selling to; an app that functions solely in English will not succeed in the wider population.
  • Assess your resources. How can you make the most of the human and financial capital that you have? With a good business team and the backing of Enterprise Ireland, at home and in market, there is great potential for success when entering the Spanish and Portuguese market. Know your weaknesses and seek help from EI to develop them into strengths. 

Enterprise Ireland is committed to helping Irish firms succeed in global markets and have experts on hand, ready to help you access the Spanish market.

Our Market Advisors are always available to support you and provide business expertise and on-the-ground knowledge.

For more, download our Going Global Guide

If you would like to know what to prepare ahead of your first MA call, click the graphic below

Inside Innovation Show – Hibergene

Inside Innovation brings you the stories of Ireland’s leading innovators and changemakers. Across the series we will cover a whole range of topics from innovating in a crisis, to looking at the future of many business areas. We go behind the stories, to understand what drives these innovators and what the innovation success factors are, from capability building, to culture and leadership.

The podcast is hosted by innovation expert Aidan McCullen.

The second episode is part of a series ‘Innovating in a Crisis’. In a rapid response to Covid-19, Hibergene Diagnostics launched a new Covid-19 test, that delivers positive results in just 30 minutes. Gary Keating, CTO of Hibergene talks capability building, agility, speed and collaboration, all important factors in the company’s success in innovation.

Digital communication – the key to success in North America in the context of Covid

The ongoing Covid-19 global pandemic has thrown up many challenges for companies worldwide. For Irish companies exporting to North America, these challenges have varied widely from sector to sector, but some, such as remote working, communication with clients, difficulties in finding new business, establishing sales pipelines and cash flow issues have been identified as common. As such, a basic roadmap to recovery has been drafted by Enterprise Ireland (EI) to help companies navigate through this uncertain time.

“The roadmap is a framework,” says Sean Davis, Regional Director for North America at EI, “but what’s interesting is that it extends across many, if not all sectors.”

There are three stages to the roadmap, and it’s backed up by EI supports to get companies into stages two and three:

  • Stabilise – protect your business, maintain operations and retain employees
  • Reset – adapt your business, plans and operations to new conditions
  • Recover – Restart innovation and capitalise on early demand as recovery develops

Communication is key

One major issue that affects every stage of the framework is communication. Many companies found themselves scrambling to deal with a workforce that suddenly became remote. Face-to-face meetings became impossible, and in the North American market, different time zones and inability to travel became massive issues for Irish companies – and so setting up successful and secure online communication technologies became key.

Dr Martyn Farrows, COO of Soapbox Labs, explains that the communication issue is not just an internal problem, but also extends to your customers and potential clients. “For us, as an online business, we were very comfortable with using many of the technologies available to us, such as Slack, as we had already had them set up internally. That situation was put into very stark contrast with the market. Our business has a very regular 12-month rhythm as we do a lot of work with the education sector, so when this kicked off in February/March, we were right into our development phase and two very big customer networking events in North America were cancelled as a result of Covid. So we had to react very quickly as to how we could communicate with our clients and how we could support them as they adapt to a remote learning environment.”

But there are positives. Because this is a global problem, everyone has the same communication issue – and Sean explains that in a way it’s a great leveller for companies, as location becomes less of an issue when face-to-face meetings are not possible for anyone. “We also had a good call with Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.  Following research work with a large number of North American companies, the conclusion is that we’ve actually crossed the digital rubicon in terms of our movement towards digitalisation and this new virtual environment.

“Maybe one of the benefits of Covid has been that push of the technological envelope, leading companies to utilise technology in a more utilitarian way.”

Adapting your business

For every company, there is a real need to adapt to the new market conditions, and answer any individual challenges that present themselves to the company. John Power is the CEO & Managing Director of Aerogen, a company that manufactures the only product that delivers drugs via a closed-system aerosol on ventilated patients, so he experienced great demand as the crisis took hold. “In the second two and a half weeks of March we received orders equivalent to the orders received in the first half of last year. But that meant we had to ramp up our manufacturing at a time when the world in many ways was shutting down. For instance, a lot of our product is shipped globally on passenger planes but when they were grounded, we had to look for capacity on cargo planes. It was a very challenging time and we had to manage expectations to make sure everyone was getting what they needed to keep them going.”

For Martyn, too, there was a need to adapt quickly. “We have just launched a first-of-its-kind voice-powered assessment tool to help educators understand and accelerate literacy development for remote learners in the US. That is an interesting case study as we signed the contract in January 2020 for delivery in August 2021. In May, the customer floated the idea that they’d like to speed up development to bring it in this year to address needs created by Covid. Now there are 150,000 kids able to access that product for their learning, growing to 2 million in the next two years. This is a good example of needing to be agile, needing to adapt to your customer’s needs as they try to respond to the needs of the market.”

Both John and Martyn agree that the key to rising to such challenges is being sensitive to your staff’s needs, especially in such uncertain times when staff members may be dealing with virtual working challenges, stress and worry about illness, and children at home from school. “You have to manage things very carefully and set clear expectations,” says Martyn. “Our team has been amazing and adapted extremely well, but a lot of that is down to effective communication.”

Preparing for the future

While stabilising and adapting your business is key to survival, to keep trading once the crisis is over, preparation for the future is vital. And again, finding new ways to communicate is extremely important.

“In the medtech industry, our usual method of opening new accounts would be to meet the people and demonstrate our products,” says John. “Obviously that has been disrupted now as hospitals don’t want people coming off the street amid the restrictions. We’ve had to develop more online training, online webinars and keynote speeches to try and attract a pipeline for the future that way.”

Both Martyn and John agree that to succeed in the North American market, preparation and flexibility are needed. “We did a lot of research into the market and were fortunate to get a Market Discovery Fund grant approved through EI, which was pivotal for our entry into the market,” says Martyn.

“It’s all about preparation; there is no such thing as an overnight success in the US market.”

“Our modus operandi at EI over the past 30+ years has been to cultivate the client/buyer relationship,” says Sean.

“With the opening of our Montreal office, we will have eight offices across North America. I would advise any client company to get in contact with our local manager and market adviser for help during this time. We have had the same communication issues as our clients, but we’ve moved quickly to adapt so we can continue to nurture those client-buyer relationships.”

So what will be the future for Irish companies operating in North America? “At the start of this crisis, you couldn’t over-communicate, everyone wanted information,” says Sean. “But as it started to move through its different phases, we’ve moved more into trust and delegation. There will be a certain snap-back once we start to get back to normal and a certain amount of personal interaction will come back. On this point, there is a distinct difference between the US and Canada, as in Canada, those personal relationships are very important – which is why we have two offices there now.

“There has always been a cultural affinity between America and Ireland – but there are a lot of domestic NA companies that will be dusting themselves off and looking at the opportunities within the region – of which there are plenty – and they may be taking advantage of the huge markets on their doorstep to help them recover. That will be a future challenge for our clients.”

Global Ambition – Industry Insights: Retail webinar

Enterprise Ireland hosted a series of Global Ambition – Industry Insights sector focused webinars to deliver market intelligence on the evolving international export opportunities across global markets.

This Retail webinar discusses:

  • The global opportunity for online retail, both now and longer term

  • Routes to market and regional differences

  • Implications for Irish brands and how to capitalise on the online opportunities

Hosted by Enterprise Ireland’s Allyson Stephen with expert insights from

  • Frank van den Berg, CEO of InfinityBlue Marketplace

  • Michael Walsh, Marketing Director of Dubarry of Ireland

Watch the webinar here.

Eoghan O Connor Enterprise Ireland

The Nordics: Opportunities abound for ambitious Irish exporters


As an island nation, the export economy is essential for the health and growth of Irish companies. Our reputation for innovation and entrepreneurship has served us well in that regard, with Irish companies finding huge success in every corner of the world. Key markets such as the UK, the US, France and Germany remain hugely important, but ambitious Irish exporters are exploring other countries that are actively looking for the products and solutions produced by Irish entrepreneurs – and finding a whole new world of opportunity. A region that is growing rapidly in importance for Irish business is the Nordics, an area made up of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland.

Currently, over 450 Enterprise Ireland supported companies export to the Nordics, with exports reaching a remarkable €1.16 billion in 2020. It’s easy to see why this region is so attractive, home to 26 million inhabitants, the Nordic region is the 11th largest economy in the world. 


The Nordic market

Irish companies have a strong track record and reputation here, says Eoghan O’Connor, Market Executive, ICT & Start Ups, Enterprise Ireland. “The Nordics are known for being progressive, stable, and open to new technology.”

“As a region that is culturally and geographically close to Ireland, Nordic countries should be considered our home markets and natural partners in terms of trade and business cooperation. English is widely spoken and like Ireland, a huge emphasis is placed on innovation.”

This innovation can be seen in the number of household names from the Nordics. For instance, within the Nordic ecosystem are global companies like H&MNokiaVolvo, Maersk, and Ericsson. In addition, outside of Silicon Valley, the Nordics have generated the highest number of unicorns per capita globally, including companies like Spotify, Mojang (creators of Minecraft), Oatly, and Klarna

“The success of these companies is down to the ecosystem, which is a fertile ground for innovation and entrepreneurship,” explains Eoghan. “Their comprehensive welfare state provides citizens with free education, healthcare, and social security and their public sector provides a strong framework for the ecosystem with opportunities for funding and other supports. There is also a dedicated focus on R&D and in general they are a population of early adopters of new technology.”

“This makes the Nordic region a great starting point for Irish companies looking to establish a foothold in the European markets and scale their businesses internationally from here.”


Success for Irish companies in the Nordics

Already there are several very successful Irish companies in the region, all of which offer clever solutions in several different areas. “These include WAZP, an Enterprise Ireland High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) that specialises in the production of 3D printing materials, which has forged a partnership with IKEA, one of the most globally recognised brands,” says Eoghan.

“In addition, iCabbi, a Dublin cloud-based taxi firm, have a contract with Finnish taxi company Meneva, which has grown its fleet from 100 cars to over 1,500 since joining iCabbi over two years ago.”

A key term in today’s global business world is sustainability, a significant area of growth as we race towards ambitious goals of net zero emissions. The Nordic countries have been long considered leaders in this field, especially in the area of environmentally friendly transport options, such as public scooter schemes.

“Irish companies are playing their part here also,” says Eoghan. “For instance, Luna Technologies, which develops AI tech for the e-scooter market, has partnered with Swedish scooter giant Voi, while Zeus has rolled out scooters in Oslo, Halmstad, and Karlstad.”


Springboard to success

These Irish companies have found huge success in the region – but there’s plenty more opportunity for ambitious Irish exporters who will find an open and welcoming market for their innovative products and solutions. To demonstrate the Irish Advantage to the Nordics, Enterprise Ireland showcased Irish innovation at SLUSH, a global-leading event for start-ups and the largest of its kind in the Nordics, which took place in December 2021 in Helsinki.

The event is considered a hotbed of start-up talent; the sold-out 2021 event attracted 8,000 attendees, over 3,200 start-up founders, and 1,500 investors, all of whom travelled from every part of the world. Irish attendees included seven companies, some already successful in the region along with some newcomers that have compelling offerings for this market

These included Boundless (B2B SaaS technology), MyPatientSpace (life sciences), Educatly (higher education), PlantQuest (oil & gas and data centres), Zeus (transport and mobility), Social Talent (learning and development), and Tito (events & ticketing).  

The event acted as a springboard for Irish companies looking to expand their offerings in this prosperous region, keen to avail of the positives of trading in an area that values innovation, flexible working relationships and timely solutions to the issues that really matter in today’s world – everything that Irish enterprise is revered for.


If you’re interested in exporting to the Nordics, contact the Enterprise Ireland Nordics team.

Sullivans Brewing

Keep on brewing

Sullivans BrewingAlan Quane, Group CEO of Sullivan’s Brewing Company, speaks about continuing to grow during difficult circumstances and building an international brand

Sullivan’s Brewing Company, based in Co Kilkenny, has a fascinating history, dating all the way back to 1702. The company boomed through famines, fires, and wars, until one fateful day in 1918, at the end of WW1, an unfortunate member of the Sullivan family – a descendant of original owner Richard Sullivan – lost the business over a bet on a horse. Sullivan’s was then acquired by Smithwick’s, formerly a rival of the company.

Alan Quane says, “It was in 2016 when I had met Paul Smithwick through my work with Diageo and he told me he was resurrecting this great brewery. So along with Paul, his son Dan, who is our Finance Director, and Master Brewer Ian Hamilton, who has huge brewing experience internationally with Diageo, we relaunched the business.

“Then there’s Michael Meade, our US based co-founder, who was a strong believer and instrumental in fundraising from day one. Alan Smithwick, a cousin of Paul’s, was also a co-founder. Alan is not only a Smithwick, but also a Sullivan. So we have the Sullivan blood in the business which has led to our brand tagline of ‘brewing is in our blood’.”

With the help of Enterprise Ireland, who provided grant support, and Bord Bia, the team rebuilt the brewing business, with a real focus on exports. As soon as their ale was out their gates, they were exporting to the US, places such as Buffalo in Upstate New York. “Enterprise Ireland and Bord Bia were extremely helpful from the early days,” says Alan.

“We knew we had a great story to tell and we wanted to brew world-class quality beer to honour this heritage.” confirms Quane.

“In fact, in 2017/18, we won the best beer in the world competition at the Oscars of the beer world in Burton-on-Trent, amongst 1,300 beers from over 45 countries around the world.”


Silver lining to the Covid-19 crisis

Having been through difficult times, including the Great Famine and many a rebellion, Sullivan’s Brewing Co. is no stranger to challenges – so how have the company been coping during the Covid-19 pandemic?

“The on-trade shut down completely and utterly in all of our markets in the US, as well as Ireland,” says Alan. “The off-trade retail environment were very much focussed on big brands and boxes of the beer, so shoppers weren’t looking for ‘craft beer’ for the most part, they were really going after the deals and a quick-fire purchase.

“We had to move with speed into survival mode, cutting our overheads and any costs we could get at. From a supply perspective, we had created great momentum in the States up to St Patrick’s Day prior to the lockdown. We had nine new markets in the US alone year to date, on top of six new markets added in 2019. This had led to great strain on our supply chain.

“But during the lockdown, we were lucky enough to be able to brew here in Ireland and therefore we were able to build up the pipeline inventory for these US markets.

“In Ireland we also started selling our beer online direct to consumers’ homes, keeping the brand front-and-centre during these very strange and isolating times. That was a silver lining in a very dark cloud.” says Quane


Helping hand

Sullivan’s Brewing Company and family motto has long been ‘standing up to do the right thing’. Back during the Great Famine, the brewery was transformed into a soup kitchen to serve food for those most in need. And this trait has lived on today. During lockdown, the company went above and beyond to support the community in Ireland and the US.

“We sent pizzas from our Sullivan’s Taproom in Kilkenny to frontline staff at the regional hospital and Gardaí station,” says Alan. “We also contributed to the Answer Ireland’s Call charity, helping them repatriate much-needed frontline staff to Irish hospitals at the peak of the pandemic. Stateside, we helped deliver meals to people in need, for example, through the VA Medical Centre and Kenmore Mercy Hospital in Buffalo, NY. That concept of community has always been important to us and our sales team were very happy to try to help.”

So what has Alan learned from the pandemic?

“As a team, we have learned that we are very resilient,” he says. “The team and our plans pivoted quickly to focus on a new set of priorities in an unprecedented and seismic change to our customers’ needs and channel dynamics. As always, we’ve learned that innovation and creativity is central to how we respond to the fast-changing needs of our trade partners.

“We have also upweighted our activity on social media during lockdown, learning how to be much more effective in that channel for relevant brand news and engagement.” says Quane.

Future focus

Alan says they now have plans to relaunch their route to market in Ireland. “We’ll service pubs and restaurants directly ourselves. We will continue to use C&C, our distribution partner for other opportunities, but by taking control of the bars and restaurants, I believe this will give us a chance to get even closer to our customers and their needs, and see how we can better serve them.”

Alan emphasises that a huge part of their future focus is exporting. “Having expanded to nine US markets in the early part of this year, on top of six last year, we have a lot of very new markets to nurture and grow. We’ve also plans to add more new markets in the US and look to the UK and Canada to continue to fuel our rapid expansion plans.

“Throughout these difficult past few months, we’ve maintained a very close relationship with Enterprise Ireland. They supported our very successful and latest round of funding. They’re a firm believer in us and continue to help us as we transition from a high-potential start-up into a successful scaled-up business.”

Enterprise Ireland’s top tips for entering the Finnish and Nordic markets


Finland adds appeal to Irish businesses who want to scale, and develop a presence within their sector overseas.

If you are considering doing business in Finland, the ten tips below will help aid you entering the market, as will our Nordics Team – located in both Stockholm & Copenhagen.

  • Finland has an increasingly elderly population and is constantly looking for healthcare solutions, new talent & the creation of new jobs.
  • The highest areas for growth and innovation in Finland are, Healthcare, marine industry, bioeconomy, energy, cleantech and environmental solutions
  • Finland is almost 1,200 km long and only contains 5.5 million people, most of whom are in the South. Most headquarters are in the capital city region of Helsinki, Espoo & Vantaa. Other business hubs are Tampere and Turku.
  • Finland has a high level of English, but don’t be fooled – this isn’t because Finnish is similar to English. Finnish is one of the hardest languages to learn in the world so if your product or service needs to be translated you may require a local partner or a team of translators. Swedish is the second official language of Finland, so certain products, such as food items, may require both.

The Nordics are a highly advanced region which rewards high quality and innovative solutions. These countries are familiar with collaboration and partnerships and often look globally to ensure that they have the best innovations on offer.

  1. Nordic business culture is based on equality, efficiency, modesty and punctuality.
  2. The Nordics are a hub for innovation – with more and more unicorns coming from the Nordics every year, the Nordics are home to some of the largest ICT & MedTech hubs in Europe.
  3. Business decisions take longer – generally, the Nordic countries operate on a consensus approach to business decisions and have flat organizational structures.
  4. If you plan on being in the Nordics long term, setting up an office in-market is necessary – as is localizing offerings (e.g. offering in local language)
  5. The Nordics are a detail-oriented market – make sure that you have the required accreditations & certificates and all specs of your product memorised, as you will need answers ready for highly-detailed questions (including any worst-case scenarios).
  6. Wait for an answer – People in the Nordics think carefully about what they are going to say before they say it, giving them their reputation as being ‘reserved’. They are comfortable with long silences and often speak only when there’s something worth saying, meaning you must give them a longer time to respond.
  7. References are required – having customer stories from within the Nordic region or from the U.S. will help gain trust and credibility from potential customers.
  8. Long-lasting Relationships – while it is a long process to build a trusting relationship, Nordic companies are usually in it for ‘the long-haul’ and are unlikely to change provider unless necessary.
  9. Highly Regulated – regulations across all sectors are among the strictest in Europe and often have higher expectations than the European Union in general.
  10. The environmental impact of business – the Nordics is a very environmentally aware market and environmental impact is something that many companies consider when entering new relationships and may set you apart from the competition.


  • As the 5th largest country in Europe, Sweden is drastically different in the North and South with different innovation hubs scattered throughout the country. Where is best for your offering is something that should be considered.
  • Many Swedes go on an extended holiday during July, meaning that generally no new business is conducted from the 21st of June (‘Midsommar’) until the middle of August.
  • Planning is essential to Swedes, so make sure to plan to meet before your arrangements for travelling.


  • Denmark is home to Medicon Valley the largest Lifesciences hub in Europe – second only to Silicon Valley in the world.
  • Denmark is a world leader in Life sciences, cleantech and digitalization.
  • Denmark is a rich, modern and design-focused country with a highly educated and critical population who are amongst the fastest to adopt new products/technologies
  • The Nordics are known for high levels of employee protection, however, in Denmark, they operate on a ‘flexicurity’ model, where it is relatively easy to hire or fire someone, but they have a high level of social protection.


  • Norway is not a member of the European Union but is part of the Inner Market through the EEA agreement
  • Norwegians often disregard titles and symbols of power as they operate with flat structures and informal communication.
  • Family comes first so afternoons and Fridays are very difficult to get a meeting as even senior management cuts their days short if they need to pick up children or be with their family.
  • Most of the population is in Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim, with the North of Norway being sparsely populated.
  • Distributors and agents are the most popular entry method into Norway – one must be careful to ensure their distributor can give focus and dedication to your product/service.

Enterprise Ireland is committed to helping Irish firms succeed in global markets and have industry experts on hand, ready to help you access the Nordic markets.

Key questions to ask at your Belgian or Luxembourgian Market Advisor meeting

This is an open discussion between you and one of our trusted Market Advisers, to discuss your business and the export opportunities that lie for you in the region. Below are some suggestions of questions to ask your MA, to learn more about the Belgian and Luxembourgian markets, and the supports we can offer you.

  • What resources do you need? Enterprise Ireland can help entrepreneurs and businesses to scale and reach their potential, let it be from funding support, market insights, or finding the right contacts through international networks. Ask your MA what they can do to help you scale your business and enter the market prepared, confident and supported.
  • What are the opportunities in the market for your business? Ask your MA which opportunities lie within your sector, and how best to leverage these growth opportunities for your business.
  • What should the next steps be? Discuss forming a plan towards global exporting – have an open discussion and together plan objectives, goals and discuss what time frames to expect. Next steps may include further market research and discovery, funding applications or buyer introductions.

Set up a call with our team in Brussels today

For more be sure to read our Belgium Going Global Guide  and our Going Global Guide Luxembourg 

Enterprise Ireland’s top tips for entering the Belgian and Luxembourgian market can be viewed by clicking the graphic below.