Seafood processors in Ardglass, Glenarm, Kilkeel and Portavogie are being helped by Invest Northern Ireland to explore business opportunities in the vast US marketplace.
Invest NI lined up a series of meetings between processors and a top buyer from Lipari Inc, one of the leading US food distribution businesses, to help local companies build business links in the US.
The Lipari buyer, Kurt Burmeister, met senior managers of four companies in Ardglass, Glenarm, Portavogie and Kilkeel during the two-day visit, his first to Northern Ireland.
Based at Warren in Michigan, Lipari is interested in sourcing shellfish and other seafood such as Blue Whiting from Northern Ireland suppliers. In addition to fresh fish, the Northern Ireland companies supply prawns and scampi.
Lipari, formed in 1963, distributes a broad range of food products, including international brands, to customers throughout the US Mid West.
Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI’s Food Director, commenting on the visit, said: “We were able to line up this important visit through a local contact. We heard that the Lipari buyer was interested in seafood and decided to set up meetings with local companies as part of our extensive and highly successful ‘meet the buyer’ programme.
“Seafood is an important sector that’s worth around £75 million annually to the local economy, and we are keen to help companies expand their markets. Currently half the catch is sold to customers in Great Britain and 30 per cent goes to other European markets including France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.
“Over the past year, we’ve organised more than 50 ‘meet the buyer events’ that have enabled companies in various food and drink sectors to pitch for business from top UK and European retailers, foodservice organisations, and international distributors.
“In addition, Invest NI’s team of four food marketing advisers on the ground in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland are working with individual companies to identify opportunities and generate sales leads. This is a unique service for companies provided by the public sector.
“Invest NI’s Trade team has also organised participation by a number of seafood companies in major international exhibitions in Europe, and we’ve brought a senior journalist from Europe’s biggest seafood publication to meet companies in Northern Ireland,” he added.
Taking part in the meetings were:
Glenarm Organic Salmon, Glenarm – organic farm salmon
C&O Milligan, Ardglass – white fish and herring
Parkgate Foods, Portavogie – scampi
Rooney Fish, Kilkeel – white fish, prawns, langoustines, nephrops and scallops