Food with a local identity now more available

Innovation Norway's value creation programme for food (VSP Mat) has led to the development of many new food products, and thus to a larger selection of Norwegian food with a local identity.

This is revealed by an evaluation carried out by the Norwegian Agricultural Economics Research Institute (NILF) on behalf of Innovation Norway. NILF recently carried out a survey which shows that both profitability and competitiveness have increased in 60 per cent of the projects aimed at companies. Turnover has increased in 72 per cent of the projects. This result speaks for itself: the income of primary producers increases and collaboration with the primary producer in a project gives the other actors in the value chain added value.

Successful networks

The Network Programme for the Food Industry is part of VSP Mat. It was established in 1995 as an initiative from The Ministry of Agriculture and Food. Nofima Mat administers the Network Programme for the Food Industry on assignment from Innovation Norway. Between five and ten per cent of the annual funds allocated to VSP Mat are spent on the network programme.

The evaluation shows that the networks reach their goals: two thirds of participants feel that the goals have been fully or partly attained. Networks are thus an important form of support to the development of small-scale food industries, with a focus on competence in various areas. The target group of these networks is companies with between 1 and around 300 employees. Previously, the participants were mostly companies, but in later years an increasing amount of primary producers take part as more and more producers process their products on the farm.

More variety
The evaluation shows that seven out of ten projects from VSP Mat develop new products or services. The development of new products, new packaging and new design are also important. In the distribution sector, the projects supported by VSP Mat also contribute to more variety, especially when the primary producer is the recipient of the support. The result is that almost 80 per cent of primary producers now sell their products through direct sales channels.

Ten years’ experience
Since its start in 2001, the value creation programme for food (VSP Mat) has also contributed to increasing the earnings potential for some producers who otherwise might have continued as ordinary raw materials producers or phased out their food production. The programme has played an important role by showing that it’s possible to start up your own food production, and has most probably been an important motivational factor in increasing acceptance for farmers choosing to go outside the traditional role of raw materials producer.

Evaluation of VSP Mat
Based on the results of the evaluation, NILF recommend an increased focus on the effects of prices and value, and to continue working with the entire delivery chain through demands for networks and collaborations. NILF also recommends less focus on employment and an increased focus on reducing costs where this will give the industry new technology or new forms of collaboration. They further recommend that a larger proportion of funding should be allocated to projects where primary producers are either recipients or collaboration partners. The results and recommendations from this and previous evaluations is important background documentation when a group now starts out their work on preparing a recommendation on following up VSP Mat after the programme expires in 2010.

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