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Spotlight on chocolate confectionery: 10 innovative products from around the world

Posted By Brian O’Connor, Senior Consumer Analyst at Mintel, 20 February 2018

As Easter approaches, chocolate confectionery is once again in the spotlight. In Ireland, concerns over sugar are putting pressure on sales, as consumers limit their consumption of chocolate and switch to better-for-you (BFY) alternatives. However, with Irish consumers noting that the emotional benefits of chocolate are important to them, there is scope for brands to put a greater emphasis on smaller-portion formats, positioning chocolate as a treat that can be enjoyed in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.


“Permissible indulgence”

This describes the ways that consumers justify their decision to indulge in “not especially good for you” products. Depending on the occasion, permissible indulgence can refer to the decision to eat a small portion of an indulgent product. But, at other times, consumers consider their consumption of a larger (regular) portion of a BFY product in the same category to be permissible. For example, a consumer may sometimes consider it permissible to indulge in a small portion of an extremely rich and decadent chocolate confectionery - hence the growth of bite and thin formats. But at other times, the consumer may opt instead to indulge in a regular serving of BFY chocolate such as a sugar and dairy-free bar or a supergrains-enriched chocolate tablet.


Here, Brian O’Connor, Senior Consumer Analyst at Mintel, takes a look at the key consumer trends shaping the chocolate confectionery market and the latest in product innovation.



Chokablok Titchy Jelly bean EggChokABlok, Titchy Jelly Bean Egg - UK:

 This thick Belgian milk chocolate egg with a puddle of lime flavour chocolate, crammed with tangy jelly beans and popping candy. As described in Mintel’s 2018 Global Food & Drink Trend ‘New Sensations’, the sound, feel and satisfaction that texture provides is becoming more important for food and drink companies and consumers alike.



Rich Cheese ChocolateFujiya Wine To Tanoshimu Look Carré, Rich Cheese Chocolate - Japan:

Unexpected flavours provide new eating experiences. This Japanese chocolate contains cheddar cheese and freeze-dried cheese, and is suggested to be paired with white wine.


Jungle BitesiChoc Expedition, Jungle Bites Organic Dark Chocolate - Finland:

As consumers look for permissible indulgence, launches of chocolate products described as "bites" have grown 50% over the past five years, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database. These vegan bites from Finland, sweetened with coconut blossom sugar, contain tiger nuts and cocoa nibs.


Lemon Wafer White ChocolateRitter Sport, Lemon Wafer White Chocolate - Germany:

Now available for the spring season of 2018, this white chocolate tablet is filled with skimmed milk yogurt lemon cream and wafer with a lemon cream filling. Seasonal, limited-edition launches can capture the attention of shoppers and tempt them to try new products.


Gin and ElderflowerTesco Finest, Gin and Elderflower Egg - UK:

This product is described as a combination of intense dark chocolate and milk chocolate infused with aromatic gin and elderflower flavour. Six creamy truffles are also included in the box.



Magnum, Double Chocolate Bar - Italy:

Magnum is branching out from their signature ice cream to chocolate confectionery. The bar is made with layers of Magnum chocolate and an indulgent chocolate caramel filling, crispy wafers and butterscotch pieces.


Toasted Buckweat bar
Purdys Chocolatier, Toasted Buckwheat Bar - Canada:

Grains have been receiving considerable attention globally as an ingredient in chocolate confectionery, but they are yet to make a major splash in terms of product innovation. This white chocolate bar with a mellow, creamy caramel taste, is studded with toasted buckwheat and Himalayan pink salt.


M&M's Triple Chocolate Candies

M&M’s, Triple Chocolate Candies - USA:

For chocoholics only, these new M&M’s launched for Valentine’s Day feature a milk chocolate centre surrounded by layers of white and dark chocolate.


Bounty Milk Chocolate Coconut Protein Bar

Bounty, Milk Chocolate Coconut Protein Bar - Germany:

The high protein trend is proving to be much more than a fad, with new launches continuing unabated. Traditionally indulgent categories like chocolate are finding growth opportunities in high protein offerings, which add a layer of permissibility. Here a classic Bounty bar is enriched with protein and it contains 19g of it.


Pumpkin Seed Chocolate Snacking Thins

Taza Chocolate, Dark Bark Pumpkin Seed Chocolate Snacking Thins - USA:

This vegan chocolate is free from dairy, soy, gluten and GMO, and is organic and kosher certified. It’s made with crispy, protein-packed puffed quinoa and topped off with crunchy toasted pumpkin, making a healthy anytime treat.




About Mintel

Mintel is the world's leading market intelligence agency. For over 40 years, Mintel's expert analysis of the highest quality data and market research has directly impacted on client success. With offices in London, Chicago, Belfast, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Munich, New York, São Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and Toronto, Mintel has forged a unique reputation as a world-renowned business brand.

For more information on how Mintel can help your business, contact Ciara Rafferty, Director Mintel Ireland on +44 (0)28 9024 1849 or

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Core's 'Outlook 2018' Report forecasts a 6.7% increase in advertising spend in Ireland

Posted By Core, 20 February 2018

Advertising spend in Ireland expected to increase by almost 7% to €1.07 billion this year according to ‘Outlook 2018’ report from Core


    Television, radio and print sectors to all experience a drop in revenue

    Online advertising spend is expected to increase by 20% to reach €541 million

    Core is calling for the establishment of an Irish Media Owners’ Association to discuss the future of the indigenous media market and address issues


A 6.7% increase in advertising spend in Ireland will see revenues reach €1.074 billion, according to new research from Core, Ireland’s largest marketing communications group.  This increase will mark the sixth consecutive year of growth in advertising investment levels in the Republic of Ireland and is in line with general economic growth.

The figures are contained in ‘Outlook 2018’, an annual document produced by Core which forecasts spend for the next 12 months across a variety of media, including Television, Radio, Print, Online, Sponsorship, Direct Mail and Out-of-Home. The report also outlines the key developments and important issues that will impact the industry this year.

Core has restated the size of the media market this year. Assessing the level of advertising spend (in media) in Ireland is needlessly difficult.  The real ‘problem child’ continues to be online advertising.  None of the major players disclose their revenue, which has resulted in massive variations in valuations of the sector; in 2017, Core believes that agencies under-called online ad spend by 27%, while the online sector itself significantly over-valued it by 32%.  Core estimates the real level of online advertising expenditure (gross of commission) in the Republic of Ireland at €451 million for 2017. 

This is significantly higher than previous estimates and is driven by a restatement of the level of direct spend that is going to Google and Facebook by thousands of small and medium-sized businesses throughout Ireland. This restatement has added €123 million to previous estimates of total amount of advertising money spent on advertising in Ireland.


Commenting on this issue, Alan Cox, CEO of Core, says: “All media owners should submit their advertising revenue figures to an independent accountancy firm on an annual basis, so that we can discuss the Irish media market and its value with confidence and without ambiguity.  To facilitate this will require the creation of an Irish Media Owners’ Association, which is long overdue.  The purpose of such an association would go far beyond the issue of spend data.  A forum for media owners to discuss the future of the indigenous media market and address issues of common concern is urgently required.”


Some of the highlights contained in Core's Outlook 2018 report are:


Unhealthy Dominance of Google & Facebook

Although a great year for profits, 2017 was a year both Google and Facebook probably want to forget due to multiple controversies around how their businesses operate.  These include Russia’s influence in the US election, Facebook’s dysfunctional relationship with news (fake or otherwise), incorrect reporting of advertising performance, ads appearing beside inappropriate content on YouTube, prominent placement of Google’s comparison shopping service in search results and, most recently, a focus on whether Facebook’s algorithms encourage addictive behaviour.

These issues, however, have made little difference to Google and Facebook’s dominance as advertising platforms so far.  We estimate that 58% of all digital spend goes to these platforms and there is no sign of this abating.

The consequences of this dominance in the Irish market are far-reaching and must be addressed.  It is important that global media companies, such as Facebook and Google, do not secure a disproportionate level of advertising spend, or it will have the unintended consequence of closing publishers and broadcasters in this country, thereby denying the public of Irish-produced analysis, opinion and entertainment, which are essential to our democracy and identity.

We are not advocating a policy of protectionism; that is a short-term fix, which usually results in poor practices and weaker innovation in the long run.  However, the Government has a major responsibility to ensure that a level playing field exists.  Recently, the UK Government announced a review into the future of the newspaper industry, warning that the closure of hundreds of titles was a "danger to democracy” and that high-quality journalism was a "force for good".  We agree, but this is not just about news publishers, it affects all media.  As a first step, the Irish Government should widen the remit of the Minister for Communications to include all media, and reallocate other parts of the ministerial portfolio, to ensure adequate time is given to this massively important and evolving issue.

It must also be said that Irish media owners should not expect the Government to do their job for them.  They need to double-down, find a ‘north star’ for their business and invest behind it.  Long-term strategic planning is lacking in the media sector, unfortunately. 


TV – Alive & Kicking

Fake news was the phrase of 2017.  In marketing terms, there is no better example of this than the headline ‘Television is Dead’.  Linear TV (live TV plus playback within a seven-day period) represented 79.7% of ALL video consumption for Irish adults aged 15 and over, in 2017. The other 20.3% represents video-on-demand (VOD) players, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, pay-per-view and so on.  So, despite all the options available, four out of five minutes of video content remains linear TV. 

It is true that younger audiences are slowly migrating to other platforms and devices; nevertheless, 55.5% of video consumption remains traditional linear TV for Adults aged 15-34.  Video consumption will continue to evolve but, with the average viewer watching 37 commercials every day or 13,538 adverts per year on linear TV, it is safe to safe that television in Ireland is still alive and kicking.


Core calls for an Ireland TV Player

One in five of all TV sets in Irish homes are now connected to the internet.  This new technology is having a huge impact on the availability of content to Irish viewers.  RTÉ, TV3 and other Irish broadcasters are directly competing with global players who have multi-billion euro programming budgets.  Many of these smart TV’s are now bundled with Netflix or other subscription services and programme choices are now decided by favourite apps, rather than the traditional TV channel menu.

Dividing Irish content amongst three or four apps will not be a successful model.  Therefore, we call on the Irish broadcasters to come together and offer one ‘Ireland TV Player’, with content-rich archives, live streaming and, most importantly, no cost to the viewer.  If you want to compete with global powerhouses, you must develop a local powerhouse to take them on. If the will exists to put aside years of competing for media budgets, then this would be a significant step to keeping Irish TV strong into the future.


Online video advertising not fit for purpose

Making the creative fit the medium is one of the age-old axioms of advertising.  When it comes to online video, there is a lack of original creative designed with this medium in mind.  With less than 30% of original content created for online video, there is an over-reliance on using existing television copy to fill this space.  At best, this is creating a poor viewing experience; at worst, it is damaging brands and turning viewers to subscription, ad free options. 

Online video advertising should be treated as a billboard, with many advertisers now trimming commercials to less than five seconds.  Producing multiple creative executions can be challenging, but it is now essential.  We wouldn’t design a 96-sheet outdoor poster with a bus shelter in mind; therefore, the same rules should apply to video. 


Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) must encourage innovation

Audio is no longer the preserve of the FM band, yet until recently the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has been focussed on growing the number of analogue FM licenses and maintaining outdated quotas in relation to news and current affairs.  The BAI understands that this approach needs to change; it is not in step with the way listenership is moving.  The industry is beset by inertia and leadership is badly needed to encourage broadcasters to future-gaze, to be creative and to develop plans for the next era of the medium.  

Innovation should be encouraged, not restricted.  Central to this is a need to change the way contracts are awarded. We need licenses to stop focusing on FM and award contracts that keep pace with the new digital age.  Broadcasters should be encouraged to change, to evolve and to innovate and be rewarded for doing so.  They should have to re-tender for their licenses every five years with a priority placed on a proven track record of innovation.  This is the incentive that will break the latent cycle of inertia and create a culture of creativity.


We need a ‘Spotify for News Media’

According to the Reuters Institute, only 10% of Irish adults pay to access online news content.  If this level of take-up does not increase, the future is bleak for this most valuable and important sector of Irish media. 

The existing paywall subscription model will never attract sufficiently large audience numbers for most mainstream news media (although there will always be exceptions; e.g. The New York Times).  One factor is what we get for our subscription; with Netflix and Spotify, we’re offered a plethora of products in return for a single sign up.  Paywalls don’t follow this approach, instead offering the consumer one product in return for their subscription.

But with the right collaboration, there is a potential solution to this problem.  If consumers had a ‘Spotify for News Media’, which gave them access to all the major Irish news brands in an easy, consistent and navigable format, it could successfully provide a platform to simplify decision making and embed news media in the daily life of the consumer for years to come.

Consumers would be asked to pay a monthly subscription for unlimited access.  And as well as delivering a range of content from all Irish news media, the service would enable customisation to the specific needs of users.


Digital out-of-home formats will account for 18% for total sector spend in 2018

There was significant investment in the digital out-of-home (OOH) network in 2017, most notably the introduction of the first large format digital structure in Ballsbridge (Dublin) by JCDecaux.  There is much to look forward to in the year ahead.  Growth will be driven by JCDecaux, which plans to convert 22 of its ‘Metropanel’ sites to ‘Digipanels’ by the summer. 

Over the past six years, the digital network has grown at a modest pace compared to other European markets, but the appetite for change is certainly there and gained momentum in 2017.  However, while we are starting to pick up the pace, growth will still be moderate for two reasons: firstly, city planning in Ireland is very conservative and slow to change; secondly, while the cost to develop digital signage has reduced (in some cases by up to 50%), the capital outlay and maintenance costs are still considerable for media owners.               

On the other side, advertisers are demanding a more developed digital OOH infrastructure in Ireland to bring much-needed flexibility and dynamism to the medium.  This presents us with a ‘chicken and egg’ type scenario: not all brands will fully embrace digital OOH until there is a more established network with a better geographical spread, but media owners may be reluctant to invest at pace if these new formats are not fully supported by advertisers.


The changing face of sports broadcasting

The sports broadcast market is reaching its most critical point since the arrival of pay TV.  The game-changer here is the rise of social broadcasting.  Both Twitter and Facebook are pushing their ‘live’ functionality, which will increasingly take share of viewing from traditional broadcasters.  Twitter has announced that sport is one of the main channels it plans to develop.  Facebook already has several live streaming deals in place in the US, including Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and UEFA (Champions League matches).  It was highly anticipated that both Facebook and Amazon would compete with Sky and BT for the next Premier League contracts (starting with the 2019-20 season).  At the time of writing, Sky & BT have won five of the seven packages and it is rumoured that Amazon is the only ‘new contender’ still in the mix for the remaining two, as it seems Facebook is not taking part.

The transformation of the broadcast landscape means that now, more than ever before, sponsorship measurement and reporting will become both more complex and important.  All stakeholders need a sophisticated and reliable measurement process, backed by experts who understand how to measure the impact and maximise the potential from each channel.

Read the report on


About Core

Core (formerly Core Media) is Ireland’s largest marketing communications company; it consists of nine distinct practices: Creative, Data, Investment, Learning, Media, Recruitment, Research, Sponsorship and Strategy.  The company also incorporates Mediaworks, Spark Foundry, Starcom and Zenith.

Core has been voted Agency Network of the Year for the last five years at the Media Awards and the company was also recently voted one of the top workplaces in Ireland by the Great Place to Work Institute for the ninth year running.

For further details, please check out



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A Day in the Life of… Róisín Grant, Founder of Grant Marketing & Communications

Posted By The Marketing Institute, 20 February 2018

Roisin Grant

The Marketing Institute: What does Grant Marketing & Communications do?

Róisín Grant: I established Grant Marketing & Communications in late 2016 initially providing consultancy services to professional services firms and B2B organisations but I've found a demand from other sectors, for example not-for-profits, hospitality and healthcare. Put simply, I help organisations to professionalise their marketing and communications approach by developing plans that work.

I like to explain the service offering under three headings.

One being strategic marketing (brand, sponsorship, events, digital, outsourcing), secondly, internal & external communications and finally critical projects such as mergers, office openings, brand awareness campaigns etc.


MII: What were your key career moves to get to your current role?

R.G: I spent 18 years leading the national marketing team of business advisory firm, Grant Thornton Ireland. I was hired as the first marketing person in the firm specifically with the purpose of developing a marketing culture beginning with the basics such as applying the global brand consistently. Over the years as marketing became embedded as a key function within the business I had the opportunity to hone my skills across the whole marketing spectrum including branding, strategy, digital marketing, event management, internal and external communications, sponsorship management… all the while growing the team to ensure a national presence.

With the phenomenal growth the firm experienced over the years I worked on major projects such as numerous mergers, sponsorships of the Newstalk Breakfast Business Show and the development of the Grant Thornton 5K Corporate Run Series meaning the role was hectic, challenging, rewarding but never boring! I was lucky to work with and learn from key influencers within the sector.

In early 2016 I began to have itchy feet and felt I wanted a new personal challenge and Grant Marketing & Communications was born. No regrets so far.


MII: What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?

R.G: It takes time to adapt to working outside of a corporate structure so learning to be disciplined with your time when working in your "home office" can initially be a challenge. However, once you find your rhythm and a routine it falls into place.

As a business owner, the critical challenge is to build your brand: to get your name out there. Your experience stands to you a lot, as do opportunities like being on the judging panel for the Irish Accountancy Awards, but essentially the challenge is to deliver a consistently high standard of work for clients, resulting in establishing a good reputation, then positive word of mouth conversations flow.

Marketing within professional services brings unique challenges and experiences compared to other marketing roles. In professional services, marketing is often viewed as a cost, it's non-fee earning and is often grouped in with support services such as IT, HR or Finance. Demonstrating how marketing should be a key function of the business, how it can impact the bottom line and support the overall strategy can be challenging. Working with clients to develop and implement effective strategies which deliver results and ultimately impact fee income is the reward for the challenges.

Overall, I think being driven to succeed with the business helps to overcome most challenges you face.


MII: What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?

R.G: I believe in any marketing role you need to be a skilled organiser, project manager and communicator.

As a consultant I need to be adaptable and responsive and ensure my clients trust that I understand their needs and their business. This is particularly important where the marketing function is outsourced to me -  the aim is to work in partnership with my clients.

Running your business with honesty and integrity means organisations have the confidence to invest in your expertise. Getting that right means word-of-mouth, as my most common source of business, is kept alive.


MII: Describe a typical working day.

R.G: Does anyone in marketing ever say every day is the same? For me some days are spent at the desk managing various client projects; from developing a communication plan for a piece of thought leadership, monitoring clients' social media platforms or progressing a client care programme.

Other days can involve being on site with a client to update/report on a project such as a marketing audit or brand review, working through an improvement plan, delivering training or perhaps agreeing key priorities for the coming months.

If I'm out and about I try to use my time as effectively as possible so I'll general arrange to meet contacts or referrers either side of client meetings.


MII: What do you love most about your role?

R.G: The obvious answer is being my own boss but apart from that it is the opportunity to work with companies across different sectors. Initially the plan was to focus on the professional services sector - a natural fit for my skill set and experience - but the desire to develop a professional marketing and communication approach is not just confined to accountancy and law firms. As I mentioned already,  I've worked on projects within different sectors and I find learning about those industries and their nuances is hugely interesting and adds another string to the bow.


MII: Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?

R.G: Who knows! At the moment I'm concentrating on delivering a high standard of work to my existing clients and growing my network to expand my base which may in time require me to recruit.

As I continue to develop my networks I find myself referring work to fellow self-employed consultants with specific niche expertise and they regularly reciprocate. This work stream and support structure is unexpected bonus of being self-employed and is something I would like to see grow as it allows me the opportunity to collaborate on large, multifaceted projects.


MII: To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?

R.G: I'm fortunate enough to have a tight group of friends and former colleagues who have excelled in their own fields and who are there as a sounding board – a useful source offering a different perspective.  Some of them are also consultants which really helps when facing the more practical highs and lows of self-employment.

My late Dad always instilled a strong work ethic; he was a leader in his field, taking pride in his work with a sharp eye for detail, valuing integrity but never suffering fools gladly. My company logo is actually his signature – a nod to him and hopefully a good luck charm for the continued success of the business.

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The Consumer Market Monitor - Q4 2017

Posted By The Marketing Institute & UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, 19 February 2018
Updated: 16 February 2018

consumer market monitor Q4 2017Irish consumers spent €3 billion with online retailers abroad in 2017


- Retail sales up 7% to €40 billion in 2017

- Online retail spending at €5 billion, 60% going out of the country

- Disposable income reached €102 billion in 2017, above 2007 peak


read report



Dublin, 19 February 2018: Irish consumers spent €5 billion online in 2017, with €3 billion of that going to online retailers abroad. This is according to the latest findings of the latest Consumer Market Monitor (CMM), published today by the Marketing Institute of Ireland and UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. Data from the Q4 2017 monitor indicates that the Irish consumer economy is in good health with total disposable income at €102 billion – eclipsing the last peak experienced a decade ago in 2007. Retail spending has seen the most significant growth, with up 7% last year to €40 billion, despite losing at least €3 billion to overseas suppliers through online spending.

Data from the Q4 2017 monitor indicate that Irish consumers are spending on most types of goods and services. The strength of demand is especially evident in the housing market where 50,000 homes were sold last year, despite a chronic shortage of supply. The number of properties for sale stood at just 18,900 at the end of 2017.

“It is great to hear the cash registers ringing again for Irish retailers, and signs are positive for continued growth. The rapidly expanding labour market and rising incomes are two significant factors fuelling spending, however, a significant amount of retail spending is leaving the country. Only 40% of online retail spending goes to Irish websites which is disappointing for indigenous businesses. This is something that can be improved upon, but will require investment in websites and e-commerce platforms, as well as access to decent broadband infrastructure,” according to
Professor of Marketing Mary Lambkin UCD Smurfit School, author of the report

“Continuing employment growth is increasing the disposable income in circulation. This has taken us just about back to the level we were at 10 years ago, before the recession stalled the economy” said
Tom Trainor, Chief Executive of the Marketing Institute of Ireland.



Consumer spending in Ireland is now growing at a strong pace and continues to be one of the main drivers of economic growth, along with construction. Growth continued in both sectors in 2017 and this trend is expected to endure throughout 2018. Total consumer spending was up 2.8 per cent for the year, while construction grew by an even more significant amount of 4.2 per cent.

For consumer spending, it was a year of two halves. Consumers were relatively cautious in the first half of the year— with spending up by just 1.5 per cent year-on-year. This figure reflects a decline in new car sales with many consumers switching to second hand imports, as well as weaker spending on services. Conversely, spending accelerated in the second half of the year, reaching an estimated growth rate of 5.3 per cent in the final quarter. This positive momentum is continuing into 2018, with all forecasts indicating growth of close to 3 per cent for the year.

The main drivers of this growth are population expansion, along with increasing employment. There are now 2.2 million people at work, up 48,000 year-on-year, and up by 344,000 or 19 per cent from the low point in 2012. Growth of 2.2 per cent is forecast for 2018 and 1.8 per cent for 2019 which will bring another 90,000 people into the workforce.

The increasing number of people employed, as well as increases in hours worked, is leading to a substantial surge in the amount of disposable income in the economy. There has been a marked increase in aggregate disposable income which has increased upwards by about 5 per cent per year in each of the past three years. In sum, it reached €102 billion in 2017, eclipsing the 2008 peak of €101 billion.  It is forecasted that disposable income will continue growing in 2018 and 2019 at a similar rate of 5 per cent per annum.

Pay increases have also contributed to the rise in disposable income, with pay rates up by around 2 per cent per annum for the past three years. Increases of approximately 3 per cent are forecast for this year, and a similar rate is predicted for 2019. Households across the economic spectrum are now starting to gain from strong employment and wage growth.

Irish consumers’ confidence is also strong at present, and significantly higher than in the UK and the rest of Europe. It fell slightly in the second half of 2016 due to worries about Brexit but recovered relatively fast and got a significant boost in recent months.

Retail sales were very strong in 2017, up by 7 per cent in volume and by 4 per cent in value, the fastest rate of growth since 2007. All retail categories performed well with household goods out-performing all other categories.  

Sales of new cars are one significant exception. Sales were down by 10.5 per cent in 2017 for a total of 127,045 units. However, there was a dramatic rise in the number of imported second hand cars, up 47 per cent in 2016, and up again by 46 per cent in 2017, to a total of 92,508. The combined sales of new and imported second hand cars were actually up by 3.5 per cent for the year.

Sales of services have also been showing signs of weakness, with growth of just 2.3 per cent for 2017, compared to 5 per cent for each of the previous three years. Professional and technical services grew strongly but sectors such as accommodation and food service and telecommunications were relatively flat.

Predictably, residential property is the sector under most pressure. There were just 18,900 properties for sale in December 2017, or 1 per cent of the national housing stock of 2 million homes. Despite the tight market, sales strengthened in 2017, up 10 per cent to 49,756, the highest rate of sales since the recession. This upward trend is expected to continue in 2018, with 55,000 sales transactions expected for the year.

Consumer Confidence

Consumer confidence in Ireland has been recovering since 2013, reaching a record high in June 2015. Confidence fell slightly through 2016 as a result of industrial unrest at home and uncertainty about Brexit abroad.

However, it picked up again in 2017, and ended the year on a high level, well above the EU average. The current level is consistent with a steadily growing economy, expanding employment and the economic recovery reaching more and more people around the country.

Consumer confidence in the UK has been negative since Q2 2016 due to the uncertainties surrounding Brexit, coupled with general political uncertainty. Confidence declined steadily through 2017, reaching a low of minus 8 in December. In contrast, consumer confidence has improved significantly across the rest of the EU, reflecting strengthening economies.

Consumer Incomes and Spending

The disposable income of Irish households rose by 5 per cent in 2017 to a total of €102 billion, eclipsing the last peak of €101 million experienced a decade ago in 2007. The strong labour market is the main driver of the growth in disposable income, with pay increases also contributing. External factors also impacted the boosted spending, lower fuel prices and a weakening in the value of sterling being two significant factors.

There are now 2.2 million people at work, up 48,000 for the year, and up 344,000 from 2012, with average pay increases of 2 per cent common in 2015, 2016, and again in 2017.

Household spending, which accounts for about 94 per cent of all personal spending, closely mirrors income. It began to pick up in 2014, up by 2 per cent increased by 4.5 per cent in 2015, and by 3.5 per cent in 2016.

2017 saw spending increase by a further 3.8 per cent to €94 billion and forecasts indicate a similar rate of growth in 2018.

Consumer Borrowing

Borrowing by Irish households grew at a record level from 2000 and peaked in March 2008 at €150 billion but has declined steadily since then. Household debt continued to fall during 2016, down by 1 per cent, but grew by 2 per cent in 2017, the first sign of a return to normal conditions.

Loans for house purchases, which account for 84 per cent of household loans, peaked in Q1 2008 at €124 billion, but fell to a low of €73 Billion by Q4 2016, a cumulative decline of 40 per cent. Mortgage lending has increased since then, up by €4 billion by end 2017, an annual growth of 5 per cent.

The personal loans category peaked in Q1 2008 at €30 billion but declined to €12 billion by December 2016, a reduction of 60 per cent. This category resumed growth in mid-2016 and grew by 5 per cent in 2017.

Significantly, the ratio of household debt to disposable income has fallen by 60 per cent from a peak of 215 per cent in mid 2011 to 141 per cent in Q1 2017, leaving Irish households still the 4th most indebted in the EU.

Residential Property

Residential property is the sector under most pressure, as has been the case since the economic recovery began. There were 45,342 homes sold in 2016 which was lower than the 47,313 sold in 2015 in a situation of very short supply.

Sales strengthened in 2017, up 10 per cent to 49,756, the highest rate of sales since the recession. This was despite a lack of stock; there were just 18,900 properties for sale in December 2017, or 1 per cent of the national housing stock of 2 million homes.

This upward sales trend is expected to continue into 2018, with 55,000 sales expected for the year. This will be assisted by the increase in the number of new homes being built, estimated at 20,000 this year, up 58 per cent from 2015.


The services sector recovered quicker than the retail sector from the recent recession, showing modest growth from 2011 onwards, and recovering more rapidly in the last two years. Growth slowed in 2017, however, to a rate of just 2.3 per cent.

Professional, scientific and technical services did best, up 10.4 per cent, and accommodation was up 1.8 per cent. Unfortunately, most other sectors were in negative territory: wholesaling (minus 5.3 per cent), administrative and support services (minus 0.5 per cent), information and communication (minus 1.3 per cent), transportation/storage (minus 0.3 per cent), and other services (minus 2.5 per cent).

Car Sales

Car sales began to recover in 2014, with 92,361 sold, a 30 per cent increase, and this rate of growth continued in 2015 with 121,110 sold. Sales continued upwards in 2016, with 142,688 cars sold, a slightly lower growth rate of 18 per cent.

New car sales were weaker in 2017, down 10.5 per cent year-on-year, for a total of 127,045. In contrast, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of imported second hand cars, up 47 per cent in 2016, and up again by 46 per cent in 2017 to a total of 92,508. This reflects the weakening of sterling which makes imports better value. Taken together, car sales in 2017 were actually up 3.5 per cent, which is reasonably healthy, and not indicative of a weakening in consumer spending.

Retail Spending

Retail sales were very strong in 2017, up by 7 per cent for the year in real volume terms. Growth accelerated as the year progressed, suggesting that this strong momentum will continue into 2018. Sales equated to spendings of €40 billion which is back to the levels seen in the last boom.  This growth rate was matched exactly by the level of VAT returns which increased by 7.1 per cent to a total of €13 billion for 2017.

All product categories experienced growth in Q4 2017. Household equipment which combines furnishings, electrical goods, and hardware, continues to be the fastest growing category, up by 13.7 per cent in volume and 8.2 per cent in value, year-on-year. Bookstores and newsagents, which have been steadily declining for the last 8 years, increased in Q4 by 2.5 per cent in volume and 3.4 per cent in value.

  • Food sales up 2.1 per cent in volume and up 5.5 per cent in value
  • Non-specialised stores (supermarkets) up 5.7 per cent in volume and 4.7 per cent in value
  • Fuel up 0.4 per cent in volume and 3.7 per cent in value
  • Clothing, footwear & textiles up 5.7 per cent in volume and 1.8 per cent in value
  • Household equipment up 13.7 per cent in volume and 8.2 per cent in value
  • Department stores up 8.2 per cent in volume and 4.0 per cent in value
  • Pharmaceuticals and cosmetics up 7.6 per cent in volume and 6 per cent in value
  • Bar sales up 2.2 per cent in volume and up 4.9 per cent in value
  • Books, newspapers, stationery up 2.5 per cent in volume and 3.4 per cent in value


infographic consumer market monitor q4 2017


About the Author


Mary Lambkin

Mary Lambkin is Professor of Marketing in the UCD School of Business where she teaches courses to undergraduate and postgraduate students and is involved in a range of research projects under the general heading of marketing strategy.  She has written extensively on this subject in academic journals, and also writes commentaries on marketing topics of contemporary interest for professional publications. She has served as Head of the Marketing Group, as Dean of the UCD Business School and as a member of the Governing Authority of the university at various times, and also holds a number of positions in companies and professional organisations outside the university.

About UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School


In 1964, University College Dublin became one of the first universities in Europe to offer the degree of Master of Business Administration (MBA).  In 1991, the graduate business school opened its own campus in Blackrock, County Dublin.  With over 100 faculty members, 1,300 students and 75,000 alumni worldwide, UCD Smurfit School is one of a small number of business schools worldwide and the only school in Ireland, to hold triple international accreditation (US - AACSB, European - EQUIS and UK – AMBA). The school’s programme has been consistently ranked among the leading European business schools’ programmes by the Economist and Financial Times, since 2000.


The School is also a member of CEMS and the Global Network for Advanced Management, which are alliances of leading global business schools.

About The Marketing Institute of Ireland

The Marketing Institute is the professional body for Ireland's marketing people. It exists “to enable marketers to build great brands and great careers”. It does this by sharing best practice, insights and expert content, building the community of marketers, and aiding marketers in career progression. The three themes of content, community and career underpin all Institute activities. The Marketing Institute also owns and operates the All Ireland Marketing Awards, the CMO Summit, and DMX Dublin, Ireland's largest marketing conference.

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A Day in the Life of... Alan Morris, Marketing Campaigns Manager at Laya Healthcare

Posted By The Marketing Institute, 14 February 2018
Updated: 13 February 2018
Alan Morris Laya Healthcare

The Marketing Institute: What does a Marketing Campaigns Manager do?

Alan Morris: As Marketing Campaigns Manager for Laya Healthcare and Laya Life I am responsible for lead generation, both online and offline, using our various marketing channels.  At the core of this is the planning and delivery of all our consumer facing marketing campaigns. I work directly on our advertising creative work and media planning but I also coordinate the delivery of all the other campaign elements (PR, social media, research) with the other members of our marketing team.   I have a lot of interaction with external agencies (digital, creative, research, media) so this gives me huge variety in my role. There is never a dull moment and always something fun and interesting going on.


MII: What were your key career moves to get to your current role?

A.M: I've had a pretty varied path to get me to where I am today.  I started my working life in AIB on their graduate programme where I was involved in their B2C and B2B internet banking offering, which gave me a really good understanding of how to speak to the consumer over digital channels.  Next I joined the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), a quantum leap from the banking sector but this is where I cut my teeth on the more traditional methods of advertising (radio, press, event management, trade shows).  When the opportunity came along to join a national brand like Laya Healthcare, the variety and hands on experience I had built up over the years really stood to me.  It goes to show that marketing is a really transferable skill between different sectors.


MII: What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?

A.M: I find the biggest challenge in marketing today to be attribution.  Like every other company that uses multiple marketing channels, it’s always hard to attribute performance to a particular channel with absolute certainty.  While digital allows for measuring to a greater degree in theory, I am yet to see a perfect way to attribute performance across a multichannel marketing mix, particularly when you mix traditional and digital channels.  Its getting better and there are improvements all the time but I am yet to hear about the perfect attribution model.


MII: What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?

A.M: To be effective I need to be good at planning to make sure that the multiple deadlines my projects entail are met.  As I deal with a lot of internal stakeholders and external agencies I need to be good at  coordinating opinion and feedback to make sure  that each piece of creative we produce meets all the high standards and approvals we set against our campaigns .  As I work with multiple account mangers across multiple marketing agencies, relationship management is also a key part of what I do.  Making sure the work gets done and our brand and values are being promoted and protected at all times by everyone involved in the campaign is one of the most important parts of what I do, while also maintaining that positive working relationship with everyone involved in the campaign.  And finally an understanding of the customer is vital in any marketing role.  Laya Healthcare prides itself on being customer obsessed and myself and all the rest of the marketing team are at the forefront of delivering this.


MII: Describe a typical working day.

A.M: Most of my working days kick off with a bit of exercise at home or going for a quick run in the morning.  Then it’s off to creche with my little boy and on into the office to start my day in our offices in Little Island in Cork.   Then its full throttle from there on.  Generally we will have a number of campaigns in the pipeline for Laya Healthcare and Laya life so I’ll spend a good bit of my day on the phone to our various agencies in Cork and Dublin.  This can be dealing with media plans, creative work like scripts or storyboards and even things like picking locations for video shoots or picking voice over artists for various piece of creative work.  These days in marketing there is a huge emphasis on reporting and metrics so a portion of my day is always spent reviewing performance against target both online and offline and identifying any areas for improvement.  Our industry is changing all the time so there are regularly items in the news or activity from our competitors  that keeps us on our toes as well,  so very often my day starts one way and finishes very differently!


MII: What do you love most about your role?

A.M: I really enjoy the competitive industry that we work in.  There are only a small number of health insurance companies in Ireland so there is a constant effort by all insurers to keep moving forward and to capture the imagination of the consumer ahead of our competition.  This brings a huge amount of variety into my role and allows for huge opportunities at being creative and innovative with our marketing.  


MII: Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?

A.M: It’s hard to say.  I’m really satisfied in my current role.  The people I work with challenge and impress me every day and even though I am based in Cork where there is a brilliant marketing community,  my role also gives me great exposure to the Dublin marketing environment when dealing with our agencies based up there.  I am still learning every day and always feel challenged working with a brand I truly believe in.  While the majority of my current role is consumer focussed, I would like to develop my skills more across the corporate side of our business which is a big part of what we do as a company.


MII: To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?

A.M: I work with a brilliant marketing team in Laya Healthcare, so finding inspiration locally is never an issue.  I also believe that Irish agencies hold some of the best international creative and media planning talent that you can find, so I am constantly inspired to learn more and to push our brand’s creative barriers by our agencies' wise words and guidance.    

View all Day in the Life features

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