Enterprise Ireland, the Irish government organisation for developing industry, has launched the first ever management development programme for the bakery and desserts sector.

Over the past two to three years, Enterprise Ireland has been working closely with firms in these sectors to identify industry challenges. These include the needs of multiple retailers and rapidly changing consumer trends.

Mike Feeney, Enterprise Ireland’s food sector executive director, said it was essential that management in these companies is fully equipped to anticipate and respond to industry challenges.

The nine-month programme is being delivered by the Irish Management Institute (IMI) in Dublin and will give companies taking part access to new product and process ideas.

It will also provide networking opportunities, while the programme will include study visits to the National Bakery School in Dublin; the San Francisco Baking Institute in California and the academy of the German bakery industry in Mannheim.

Feeney said: "Owners and managers taking part will enhance their managerial effectiveness, identify new growth opportunities and increase innovation and international marketing capabilities."

The course costs E16,385 (£11,127) per person, but with 70% funding from Enterprise Ireland this is reduced to E4,915 (£3,338). The scheme launched on 22 March at the IMI headquarters in Dublin, with a trip to Germany scheduled for 10-13 April.