Bord Bia launched its Spirit of Ireland drinks campaign in west Africa as part of the Irish Government’s trade mission to Nigeria and Senegal on Thursday 14 September.

In the last four years, Bord Bia has invested €1m in the Spirit of Ireland campaign, which is a global educational programme aimed at customer-facing staff selling Irish spirits in off-licenses and bars.

It was first launched internationally by Bord Bia in 2022 in the US and has since featured in Ireland, the UK, Germany, France and Canada.

Irish spirits are now exported to over 130 countries worldwide. Whiskey is the predominant Irish export to Nigeria, accounting for 80% of spirits exported.

Officially launching the African chapter of the programme in Lagos, Nigeria, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said: “Given the renaissance Irish spirits is having globally and its growth trajectory in west Africa, launching Spirit of Ireland in Nigeria was the next obvious choice."

Virtual tours

Designed by Bord Bia, Spirit of Ireland is a trade communications campaign comprising of virtual reality tours of 20 of Ireland’s distilleries, featuring interviews with master distillers and barrel coopers so staff can learn first-hand from brand owners in Ireland what makes their product unique and distinctive.

Attendees of Spirit of Ireland launch in Lagos, Nigeria, experience Irish distilleries through VR

This unique sensory experience is accompanied by scent booklets to smell and experience Irish barley fields and barrel houses, all aimed at creating an in-depth understanding of Irish spirits.

As part of the Government-led trade mission to Nigeria and Senegal, this week Bord Bia is hosting 15 Irish spirits companies in Lagos, Nigeria, for the Spirit of Ireland launch with a view to connecting them to local distributors.

Speaking from Lagos, Bord Bia CEO Jim O’Toole said: “Nigeria is a key export market for Irish drinks valued at €9m. Exports of Irish spirits to Nigeria have grown by 200% in the last five years, so this programme is being launched at a time when Ireland is front of mind for its whiskey, gin and cream liqueur, which are now positioned as premium offerings worldwide.

"Through this sensory journey detailing the story of Irish spirits, Bord Bia is confident that this communications campaign will positively influence business leads and commercial success for Irish drinks companies here with us in Lagos this week.”

In 2019, Bord Bia opened its first office on the African continent in Nigeria, which is now led by Bord Bia’s market specialist Ese Okpomo.

In 2020, Bord Bia developed a drinks market entry guide to help Irish businesses understand the Nigerian business landscape and its regulatory requirements.

Jim O’Toole added: “Nigeria, with a population of 213 million people, is one of the fastest growing markets for Irish spirits. Our market intelligence tells us that the main driver of growth will be the urban, young population, 45% of whom are now living in cities, who have increased purchasing power driven by better education and improved employment options.

"This provides an excellent opportunity for Irish spirits companies to target a growing middle class consumer base that are actively seeking and engaging with premium brands.

“Building on the work done by Bord Bia here in the last four years to enhance awareness of Irish spirits, the Spirit of Ireland programme will create new advocates for Irish spirits by telling them the history of Irish spirits, which they, in turn, will pass on to this new, aspiring consumer base.

"The programme will bring attendees through the remarkable history behind the spirits produced on the island of Ireland. This evolving, innovative sector offers high-quality choice for our global customers in Africa.”