Gulfood 2021 presents significant opportunities for NI exporters

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Invest NI exhibited at Gulfood 2021 from February 21 - 25 with 17 food and drink companies showcasing a wide range of high-quality food and drink products at the event.

Gulfood stand
         Northern Ireland stand at Gulfood 2021

Gulfood, the world's largest annual food and beverage trade exhibition held in Dubai, UAE, is a key event in our annual agenda, given its significance as a global platform that helps producers access new markets in the Middle East and beyond. The Middle East is an important market for NI’s food sector, with agri-food exports to the India Middle East and Africa (IMEA) region reaching £100 million in 2019.

This year marked the 14th time that Invest NI has exhibited at the event. Displays included a range of high quality, grass-fed dairy products, infused rapeseed oils, balsamic vinegars, natural apple cider vinegar, healthy snacks for children, and gluten-free fruit and vegetable snack products in addition to a range of porridge oats and oat-based cereals.

Northern Ireland companies were introduced to some of the biggest retail chains in the region including Carrefour, Spinneys, Choitrams, Al Maya and Lulu. White’s Speedicook, a producer of porridge oats and granola across the UK and Ireland, continues to supply to the Gulf market following the signing of successful agreements in 2020 estimated to be worth over £1million.

The Northern Ireland pavilion was visited by Mark Rakestraw, Deputy Consul General at the British Embassy in Dubai and Sarah Taylor, Director of the Department of International Trade UAE at the British Embassy Dubai. Celebrity Chef Tarek Ibrahim, the first Arab to win the MasterChef title, also visited the pavilion and expressed his keen interest in several NI products including Broighter Gold Rapreseed Oil, and Burren Balsamics range of black and white balsamic vinegars.

Key trends in the food and drink industry

A key trend at the Invest NI stand was food security and technology innovations, with Foods Connected and Lowe Conex exhibiting. Invest NI will continue to raise the profile of Northern Ireland’s strength in food security by sponsoring the FoodSec expo and summit in Oman in March, where Professor Chris Elliott from the Institute of Global Food Security in Queens University Belfast will speak to government officials and industry leaders on creating a food system which will help drive the knowledge economy and improve human health.

Despite challenges, there was a fantastic turnout at Gulfood, which is testimony to the importance of the event as a global forum where market-leading producers and sector innovators can come together and develop partnerships, which will help the food and beverage industry adapt and recover from the impact of the pandemic. 

Food security was also a key theme at the event and Northern Ireland's expertise within this space has been recognised and endorsed by the strength of its robust supply chains, which ensured uninterrupted production throughout 2020 in the height of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Gulfood also saw an increased awareness of the impact of natural and organic foods on diets. Consumption patterns are changing, and the industry now is working on premium menus by introducing natural, organic ingredients and ‘free-from’ options. This in turn has created more demand for such products from Northern Ireland given the region's commitment to high ethical and environmental standards with food producers who are dedicated to quality and traceability.

Find out more about the companies that participated in Gulfood.