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Mairead McKeown, Librarian & Information Specialist, Bord Bia – Irish Food Board

Information is the foundation of strong brands and successful new products. Bord Bia provides access to regular, relevant and reliable updates on breaking news & developments which have implications for Irish suppliers. The objective of this FoodAlert is to share information on “What you ABSOLUTELY have to know when selling or advertising food online”.

In line with Bord Bia’s Busy Lives trend, consumers in Ireland and Britain are seeking brands & products that can help them manage and make the most of the time they have (Bord Bia, 2017) Online shopping and Busy Lives are perfect partners when it comes to providing connected consumers with convenient shopping solutions that save them time. It’s not surprising that in Britain, the online share of grocery was valued at 7.5% in 2017, and is set to rise to 12% by 2025 (Kantar Worldpanel, 2017).

PERIscope 2017 – Ireland and Britain shows that the incidence of online grocery shopping in GB is significantly higher than in ROI. 3 in 10 GB consumers have done their grocery shopping online in the past, compared with just 1 in 10 here in the ROI. GB online shoppers are also more likely to buy groceries online at least once a week (Bord Bia, 2017). So why does Ireland lag behind the UK? The Irish online grocery market is relatively undeveloped and according to PWC, the fact that some of the major Irish grocery retailers do not have an online shopping presence further highlights the potential for growth (PWC, 2017). In 2017, online grocery shopping in Ireland accounted for 1.8% of grocery spend but this is set to rise to almost 5% of grocery spend by 2021 (Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e data to 31st December 2017).

As more consumers are forecast to embrace online shopping, Irish suppliers should get themselves fully up to speed on the information they MUST provide to the consumer, when selling food online.

In 2017, the FSAI published a guide – Selling or Advertising Food Online, which aims to inform sellers and advertisers about the rules for selling food online.

Irish suppliers, who are currently (or thinking about) selling or advertising food online need to ask the following 10 questions?

  • Have I registered my food business with a competent authority? This is MANDATORY before you sell or advertise food online (List of competent authorities)
  • When selling food online, do I provide consumers with certain information about the food before the purchase is concluded? This MUST be done in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011
  • Do I claim that food can prevent, treat or cure a human disease? Such claims are NOT legally permitted
  • Is the food I sell online labelled or marketed as ‘Organic’, ‘Bio’ or ‘Eco’, produced on a farm that has been certified as organic following inspection by an official certification body? Food sold online which is labelled or marketed as ‘Organic’, ‘Bio’ or ‘Eco’, legally HAS TO BE produced on a farm that has been certified as organic following inspection by an official certification body
  • Are perishable foods held at a safe temperature during storage, transport and delivery? If not, harmful bacteria may increase in numbers or produce toxins, making the food UNSAFE to eat
  • Have I supplied consumers with the unsafe food? If so, you must INFORM them and if necessary, RECALL it from them
  • Do I make medicinal, nutrition and/or health claims when advertising food? The information you provide about the food MUST NOT be misleading
  • Have I provided the name of my business, postal address and other relevant contact details? The rules deem ALL of the above necessary
  • Do I inform consumers in advance if they do not have a right to cancel? Consumers must ALWAYS be fully informed about not having the right to cancel in advance
  • Do I refund consumers who exercise the right to cancel within 14 days from the day on which I’m informed of the consumer’s decision to withdraw? Legally, if a consumer exercises the right to cancel, you MUST refund them within 14 days from the day on which you were informed of the consumer’s decision to withdraw

Ireland along with twenty-five other member states has recently taken part in the first EU coordinated control plan on online offered food products, which found a high percentage of non-compliant offers. Of the 1,077 websites checked, 779 offers of food for sale online were found not to comply with EU legislation. In Ireland, 17 offers of unauthorised novel foods and 6 offers of food supplements making unpermitted claims were identified. Follow up actions have resulted for all non-compliances identified, and although this was not mandatory, in about 440 cases measures were taken with the aim to close the offer, including inspection of the traders’ premises, warnings and – in some cases – fines. The evidence is clear, eCommerce control today needs to be strengthened. (European Commission, 2017)

The implications for Irish suppliers:

The online grocery channel is set for growth. Irish suppliers playing (or thinking about playing) in this channel should use The FSAI’s guide – Selling or Advertising Food Online, to be better informed about the rules for selling food online. According to Dr Pamela Byrne, CEO, FSAI “By understanding the regulatory processes and rules, food businesses can provide the necessary information so that consumers can make an informed choice at the time of purchase” (FSAI, 2017). If you want to help consumers make informed choices about your products and brands and use this channel as an effective route to market, the rules of selling food online are not a nice to know, as the title of this article says, they are indeed: “What you ABSOLUTELY have to know when selling or advertising food online”.

If you liked this FoodAlert you might also like to read “Grow your brands online with best in class imagery”, covered recently in the FoodAlert.

Any queries on the rules of selling or advertising food online should be directed to

For more information contact: Mairéad Mc Keown – Librarian & Information Specialist, The Strategic Planning & Insight Team –