Finding the recipe for a successful business in South Denmark

The “Thriving culinary experiences” project focuses on developing more clearly defined business strategies for food SMEs in Southern Denmark, helping participating businesses to overcome a major barrier to their growth and development.

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‘Sønderjysk Kaffebord’ –a traditional ‘Southern Jutland coffee table’  ©Chris Tonnesen, 2014 ‘Sønderjysk Kaffebord’ –a traditional ‘Southern Jutland coffee table’ ©Chris Tonnesen, 2014

" The project has managed to create an understanding that strategy is an important element in running a business. The incentive effect of the project means that more companies will work their strategy than they would have been without the project’s intervention "

Andreas Cæsar Møller Jensen, Project Manager at Business Development Centre – Southern Denmark

The EU-funded project targets four areas for improvement – improving quality, internationalisation, sustainability and productivity. For the first area, the project looked at how SMEs could ensure the ingredients and resulting food products are of a high quality. The internationalisation aspect encouraged businesses to consider exporting their goods to countries around Europe. A major market for SMEs is the German city of Hamburg, given its closeness to the Denmark’s southern border. 

The project also focuses on helping SMEs improve productivity – finding smarter ways for the SMEs to operate. For example SMEs were helped to look closely at more efficient solutions for their businesses, or to sell their products in a smarter way. This could be through using local food and storytelling. For example, restaurant owners were encouraged to provide consumers with more background information on their meal, making their experience more authentic and unique. By focussing on sustainability, SMEs were encouraged to place greater emphasis on organic foods to promote ecological balance and a more sustainable environment.

Inspiring SMEs 

The project was organised by the Business Development Centre – Southern Denmark, a non-profit business consultancy. The organisation provided consultancy services to SMEs and offers subsidies for the execution of their strategies. 

The Centre has developed a screening process to select businesses for the project – some were also identified in advance and were encouraged to apply. Of the 160 businesses considered, 70 were selected for participation. The project is ongoing and currently works with 31 SMEs. Over the long term the project is expected to help a total of 70 SMEs generate EUR 20 million in revenue and create 99 jobs.

Project activities included retreats and workshops, where representatives from participating SMEs were gathered together. This gave businesses the opportunity to discuss common challenges they faced in their region.

A strategy for growth

Despite differing backgrounds and cuisine specialties, businesses were able to find common ground over topics such as supermarket business structures – there are two main competitors in the region. Companies were assigned consultants from the Business Development Centre – Southern Denmark and allocated subsidies for their specialised business plans. Depending on the size of the SME and the proposed strategy, these subsidies covered anything from 15 % to 50 % of costs.

The funding was used to pay for consultants, organise workshops and learning retreats, and also to identify SMEs during the screening process. The project has helped Southern Denmark by bringing a higher standard of food and better business strategies to SMEs in the region. An increase in exports to other EU countries is another benefit. The project has also contributed to making the region more attractive for tourists to visit by improving the variety of culinary experiences on offer.

The project has also given SMEs a better understanding of the importance of strategy in running their business. It is hoped that the success of the participating SMEs will inspire other businesses to work on their own strategy too and encourage further growth in the region. 

Although there have been similar food projects in the region before, this project is one of the most ambitious. The region has no common cuisine – instead there are several independent food clusters. Project activities have helped to bring these strong local identities together and enabled participants to learn from each other.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Thriving culinary experiences” is EUR 3 900 000 , with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 2 000 000 through the Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Development of TEN-T and multimodal transport”.

Draft date