Helen King BOrd BIA Head of consumer insight and innovation at the Irish Food Board, Helen King lived in New York state with her Irish parents until she was 16 years old. But her heart always belonged to Ireland where she returned every summer as a child to holiday with her mother’s family in Co Offaly. “I loved the people and the lifestyle and made an immediate connection with Ireland. Being brought to pubs at the age of 16 was pretty good and shows how laid back Ireland [was] compared to the US,” says King, who works for the state agency in Ireland tasked with selling Irish food and drink abroad. She flies abroad a couple of times a month to explore new export markets and help Irish companies sell their products to consumers in the US, Asia and Africa. “Food and drink is one of the hot sectors at the moment. It’s our largest indigenous industry, worth almost €9 billion per year and accounting for about an eighth of our overall exports. The beef and dairy sectors hold great potential for growth,” says King. “I enjoy travelling, it fits my lifestyle. I’ve established a really good worldwide network of friends and contacts abroad who help my research into finding out consumer tastes abroad.” This year King’s job saw her spend a few weeks living with families in Indonesia and Vietnam – two potential new export markets for Irish firms – to study how consumption of dairy products is taking off. “This was a fascinating experience because the families didn’t know anything about Ireland and they were blown away when I showed them photographs showing the beauty of our countryside,” says King, adding that Ireland’s green image really helps us when we are selling our products abroad.
october/november 2012 october/novemb