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A positive performance from PCF

TResearch Spring 2022

State agency Bord Bia has been tracking the performance of Prepared Consumer Foods (PCF) exports, as it supports the growth of Irish companies in this valuable market.

Words by: Aoife Glennon, PCF Executive at Bord Bia

In 2021, Ireland’s Prepared Consumer Foods (PCF) exports market was valued at €2.5 billion – a 2.7% increase from 2020. As a category, PCF covers a breadth of products ready for consumer consumption, and its success heavily follows consumer lifestyle trends.

The positive performance seen in 2021 is due to sustained strong sales across retail – most notably for the meal solutions category, but also bread and value-added pigmeat.

PCF exports are very dependent on the UK market, and despite the challenges raised by Brexit, there remains opportunity for growth. The scope of Irish exporters able to take advantage of that growth will depend to some degree on the implementation of the EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement, however.

Exploring potential new customers

Irish PCF exporter sentiment on UK growth is strong, and Bord Bia provides support to companies looking to increase their UK exports. To help Irish companies overcome barriers to trading with the UK, Bord Bia has launched a Brexit hub, hosted events and webinars, conducted UK consumer research and created a Brexit Action Plan, amongst other things. 

Many Irish PCF exporters are also pursuing diversification strategies. Growing a strong understanding of target markets in terms of tastes, requirements and the prevailing distribution network takes time, but opportunities exist for companies with the capability to adapt to local requirements.

The opportunity for diversification rests most significantly in the EU within the meal solutions subcategory, which includes pizzas, ready meals and soups. The logistical challenges of chilled exports to those markets should not be underestimated, and significant inflation across the supply chain and shipping remains the number one challenge for all Irish exports.

Understanding the value areas in PCF

The largest single element of PCF is value-added meats (VAM). Destined for quick service restaurants and retail ready environments, VAM’s were significantly negatively affected by closures resulting from the pandemic in 2020. As foodservice – particularly quick service restaurants – returned in 2021, VAM’s sustained exports at a value of €677 million, up from €670 million in 2020. This export figure is still below pre-pandemic levels (VAM exports in 2019 were €755 million), but it demonstrates a gradual recovery.

Elements of the PCF category dependent on the retail channel had a very positive year. The meal solutions subcategory increased the value of exports by 5% to €517 million, a 10% increase on 2019’s record value of €471 million.

Non-alcoholic beverage exporters balanced between the return of demand for foodservice and continued robust retail. Exports in this category were worth an estimated €110 million in 2021, a 27% increase on 2020’s value and up from 2019 also.

Export figures for 2021 demonstrate
Irish PCF companies’ resilience and ability to adapt to the changing market environment, and promisingly, Bord Bia has 16 Irish companies exhibiting at the Food and Drink Expo 2022, all hoping to increase their UK exports. Similar agility and responsiveness will be required from companies throughout 2022, however, if exports are to successfully grow in this wide and complicated category.  


68% of all PCF exports are destined for the UK market, up from 62% in 2016.