Dawn Farms Meeting Customer Expectations Through Innovation

“We have had a long-standing positive and proactive relationship with Enterprise Ireland and currently avail of its R&D support programme”

– John McGrath, Head of Business Development


Case Study: Dawn Farms

Established in 1985, Dawn Farms is a family-owned company and the largest specialist supplier of cooked and fermented meat protein ingredients outside of the USA. The company currently supplies world-leading food brands across more than 40 markets, including the UK, the wider EU, the Middle East and Africa, offering a “one-stop shop” to customers in the pizza, sandwich, snacking and ready meal categories.

Named Irish Food and Drink Exporter of the Year in 2016, the company employs over 1,000 staff based in state-of-the-art facilities in Naas, County Kildare, and Northampton, England.

According to Head of Business Development John McGrath, a holistic relationship-based service that puts the customer’s brand first – with product, process and service innovation playing a central role in its total value proposition – is at the heart of the company’s success.

“We have identified a number of key trends, based on consumer insights, that drive our product development pipeline”, he explains. These include the “quest for health and wellness” and “sustainable lives”.

In line with these trends, all Dawn Farms products are free from artificial colours, hydrogenated fats and MSG, while also meeting the latest standards on salt.

The company’s new Streetfood Collection, born out of its extensive investment in consumer insights, combines a bespoke cook and sear process to produce a range of Mexican, American and Korean-inspired street food cooked meat products to allow their customers meet growing demand in the hand-held snack and food to go markets across Europe. Cooked “low and slow”, this new range brings all the flavours of street food alive and comes in vacuum-sealed pouches for better and more consistent recipe and flavour delivery in store.

“Today’s consumers are seeking out authentic and better tasting food experiences”, says McGrath. “The Street Food Collection delivers on that need for Dawn Farms customers.”



The company’s Texan BBQ Beef Burnt Ends sandwich filling is another example of this consumer-led innovation in action. “Consumers today are becoming more discerning about barbecue food and this is evident in the different types of regional barbecue sauces offered in burger chains as well as the broad choice of restaurants seeking to deliver authentic American barbecue experience and tastes”, McGrath points out. “It also taps into the ‘back to basics’ food trend – a return to primeval cooking methods such as grilling, barbecuing and fermentation. The burnt ends’ concept also fits the sensorial trend towards charring, blackened and burnt textures in ingredients from meat to ice cream.”

Similarly, the company’s Italian-Style Porchetta product was inspired by traditional Italian street food. “The rationale behind this ingredient is to give food-to-go consumers an authentic Italian food experience. This fits in with the Borrowed Nostalgia food trend, where people are looking for traditional food experiences from other countries. Porchetta is a traditional Italian roasted pork delicacy, typically sold from a cart or a truck, sliced to order and served in a sandwich as a quick treat at the market or at a fair.”

“We have had a long-standing positive and proactive relationship with Enterprise Ireland and currently avail of its R&D support programme”, he adds. “This has allowed us develop a range of product and process improvements across the business that underpin our commercial strategy and foster new growth opportunities in a very demanding marketplace.”

Game-changing brewing technology boosts brand value for Marco Beverage Systems

“People sometimes see an R&D grant as something to get a product to market, but a reputation for innovation also increases your brand value and drives sales all by itself.”

– Paul Stack, Operations Director, Marco Beverage Systems.

Key Takeouts:

  • Enterprise Ireland’s funding helped drive culture of innovation.
  • Leading-edge technology transformed brand awareness and opened new markets. R&D for one product generated platform technologies that could be used in others.

Case Study: Marco Beverage Systems

“It’s important as an SME to be able to afford to continually innovate,” says Paul Stack. “In our business, we generally get about a seven-to-ten-year product lifetime, so innovation is key to replacing and renewing products.” Stack is Operations Director at Marco Beverage Systems, a hot water delivery systems company, headquartered in Dublin.

The company, which provides systems for coffee and tea brewing in the food and beverage industry, is a recipient of Enterprise Ireland’s RD&I funding.

Its range of products includes water boilers and coffee brewers. Marco has manufacturing plants in Dublin and China, and distribution offices in America, Europe, the Middle East and China, giving the company global reach.

80 per cent of Marco’s products are exported: an increase from 68 per cent only three years ago. It has just under 100 employees globally, with approximately 60 based in Ireland, and its products can be seen in significant coffee, tea and catering locations, including familiar names like Starbucks, Bewley’s and Costa Coffee.

The company’s success is fuelled by its emphasis on innovation. This focus, and a desire to expand it, led the company to apply for RD&I funding from Enterprise Ireland back in 2004. “The main considerations for our design team are energy efficiency, beverage excellence and design excellence, incorporating user experience and aesthetics,” says Stack.

“Energy efficiency has been a major success for us in terms of cutting-edge design. Over 50 per cent of the energy footprint associated with a cup of tea or coffee is in brewing it,” Stack points out. “Our R&D department has significantly reduced the amount of energy our products use, and one of our products is 70 per cent more energy-efficient than anything else on the market globally, which is a great selling point.”

One example of a product that has benefitted from the Marco Beverage Systems R&D program is the Uber Boiler, launched in 2009. This one-cup coffee brewing station has replaced more traditional bulk coffee systems in many cafés and restaurants. It allows baristas to have more control over a recipe and brings them closer to the front of the shop to interact with customers.

The Uber Boiler and similar systems are now a common sight in coffee shops, but when the company first developed this product it had a big effect on the industry. “The product completely changed how our brand was seen in the marketplace as it was so innovative. It opened doors for us, especially in new regions like America. People came to us because of the popularity of the technology,” says Stack.

The company has also found that R&D for one product can generate platform technologies that can be used in others. A separate research project for a different product resulted in innovations that contributed to an automatic version of the Uber Boiler, the SP9, demonstrating the types of cross-pollination that an R&D program can produce.

“People sometimes see an R&D grant as something to get a product to market, but a reputation for innovation also increases your brand value and drives sales all by itself. R&D drives a whole culture of innovation in your business, which keeps you relevant and sets you apart from competitors,” explains Stack. “I wouldn’t just suggest that other Irish SMEs conduct R&D – I consider it absolutely critical. Enterprise Ireland’s funding can really drive this forward.”

Irish Dog Foods brings export market to heel

“Initially, we set up as a standard dog food business. But we found that we were just a ‘me too’ brand, so we needed something to set us apart. As a business in a small island nation, with all the logistical and transport challenges that poses, our business had to find a niche to allow us to sell globally.”

– Liam Queally, Managing Director, Irish Dog Foods


Case Study: Irish Dog Foods

“We have grown at an exponential rate and Enterprise Ireland’s support has been key to that growth,” says Liam Queally.

“We’re currently in our second phase of Enterprise Ireland-supported R&D projects with a range of new products focused on export markets in North America.” Queally is managing director of Irish Dog Foods, a pet food manufacturer headquartered in Naas.

The company, a recipient of Enterprise Ireland’s RD&I funding, produces a range of dry pet foods and meat-based treats. It found that ‘humanisation’ – creating dog snacks inspired by appealing and healthy human foods – was the key to opening new markets and increasing sales.

“Initially, we set up as a standard dog food business. But we found that we were just a ‘me too’ brand, so we needed something to set us apart,” explains Queally. “As a business in a small island nation, with all the logistical and transport challenges that poses, our business had to find a niche to allow us to sell globally.”

Key Takeouts

  • Developing niche products defined brand and opened new markets such as the US.
  • Applying for Enterprise Ireland’s RD&I funding was straightforward and encouraged strategic thinking about research and development.
  • Open discussions and idea generation were a major part of the R&D process.

The company responded to this challenge by developing new product ranges, with support from Enterprise Ireland.

“New products are key to our growth in new markets. Enterprise Ireland’s RD&I grants have enabled us to get new products to market in a shorter time,” Queally explains.

In 2012, Irish Dog Foods successfully applied for Enterprise Ireland’s RD&I funding to develop a humanised pet treat range, with the aim of launching these products in North America. The range included a healthy granola-style bar and a chicken fillet-based snack with superfood ingredients such as kale, spinach, cranberries and blueberries, and ingredients to promote good joint and skin health.

This innovation paid off, and the new products opened doors in the US market. Between 2013 and 2015, export sales increased from €29 million to €43 million and 30 new staff members were hired in Ireland. The company is now heavily export-focused, with many well-known retailers stocking its products. These include Petco, Petsmart, Walmart and Costco in the US, and Aldi and Lidl in Europe. Irish Dog Foods also has distributors further afield in countries such as South Africa, Korea and Japan. “Our American customers operate in what is widely agreed to be the most impenetrable and competitive market worldwide. In a number of these, we are the only Irish manufacturer listed,” points out Queally.

The company carries out all its R&D in dedicated facilities on-site. Initially, it had only one employee working on new product development. Now, the team has grown to fourteen people, including food technologists and innovation experts. R&D doesn’t have to be hugely technical, much of the work involves coming up with new ideas. “A key R&D facility is our innovation suite, a stand-alone room for thinking and brainstorming,” says Queally. “This is an environment designed for open discussions and idea generation, where we use idea boards to develop new concepts.”

Queally would advise other Irish companies to follow his lead and apply for Enterprise Ireland’s RD&I funding. “Applying is fairly straightforward, and we learnt a lot about R&D throughout the whole process, even the application stage,” he explains. “It got us thinking strategically about our R&D and what it could bring to the business. Any hurdles were worthwhile and we had excellent support.”

Click here to learn more about Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation supports.

Enterprise Ireland companies with Global Ambition

Attendees at Enterprise Ireland‘s International Markets Week heard from established Irish companies successfully selling globally and had the opportunity for meetings with Market Advisors, available to provide expertise on exporting to new markets.

If you are attending IMW please consider the following:

  • In which markets are you successful and how have you achieved this success?
  • What is your business/value proposition?
  • Why have you decided to target this new market?
  • What market validation have you carried out and what evidence do you have for a demand for your product / service?

Contact the International Markets team at International Markets Week for further information.

Winning business in Brazil

Both time and commitment are key to success in winning business in Brazil where the tax system is complicated and protectionist. Advice from Enterprise Ireland’s Latin America team can help smooth the path to success.

To learn more about Enterprise Ireland supports and for further information on doing business in Brazil click here