Global drive to boost Northern Ireland food sales

Food and drink from Northern Ireland will feature at almost 40 international events during 2008 in the region’s biggest ever global marketing drive. It will position the Northern Ireland ‘Good Food is in our Nature’ branding in the international marketplace, and increase awareness of the comprehensive range of quality products available from the region.

The campaign, which was launched today at Dale Farm, one of Northern Ireland’s leading food exporters, includes six trade missions covering the US, France, Spain, Italy and South East Asia, as well as participation in a series of international food exhibitions in Great Britain, the Middle East and the Republic of Ireland.

In addition, 25 ‘meet the buyer’ type events with top retailers and foodservice organisations have already been lined up in Northern Ireland for the region’s food companies.

Among this is a first time visit by a group of buyers from Sweden, on 11th February, to explore business opportunities with Northern Ireland red meat processors. Seven Northern Ireland beef and lamb processing companies started the process by visiting Stockholm in November and developed a number of contacts there.

The campaign is being organised by Invest NI as part of its focus on promoting and encouraging food and drink exports. The extensive itinerary includes Sial, Paris; Gulfood, Dubai (24-27 February); Thaifex, Bangkok (21-25 May); Salone del Gusto, Turin (18-23 Oct); and the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York (7-9 Sept).

Northern Ireland food and drink will also be displayed at major UK events such as the St Patrick’s Day Market, London (15-16 March); Food and Drink Expo, Birmingham (6-9 April); Speciality and Fine Food Show, London (7-9 Sept); and Food on the Move, also in London (14-15 Oct). Northern Ireland will be returning to SHOP in Dublin in October, the Republic of Ireland’s main food show.

Ian Murphy, Invest NI’s Managing Director of Clients and Entrepreneurship, commenting on the campaign, said: “Our objective is to help our food and drink companies reach as many potential buyers as possible and thereby achieve greater sales outside Northern Ireland. We know that the industry has the talent and the assets, particularly in terms of excellent processing plants and a commitment to quality, to achieve greater export success.

“The industry’s contribution to the Northern Ireland economy is already substantial. Almost 450 food companies had sales of £2.5 billion in 2005 – 24 per cent of Northern Ireland’s total manufacturing sales. The food processing industry is our largest manufacturing sector and has a longstanding commitment to natural and ethically produced food and drink. It is also our third biggest manufacturing exporter.

“Food companies currently sell around 62 per cent of their products outside Northern Ireland. Around a fifth of our manufacturing workforce is employed in processing plants operating to internationally recognised hygiene standards. We want to assist them to achieve greater global success,” he added.