Innovation from Northern Ireland at Food and Drink Expo

Eleven Northern Ireland companies will be showing a wide range of innovative products at Food and Drink Expo in Birmingham from 21-24 March 2010.

On show on the ‘Northern Ireland Good Food…Naturally’ stand will be award winning products such as cheeses, soups, sauces and vegetable products, from companies which gained gold awards in the Great Taste Awards organised by the UK Guild of Fine Foods.  

The two cheese companies on the stand, Dale Farm, Northern Ireland’s biggest dairy business, and Fivemiletown Creamery, also gained awards in the recent International Cheese Awards and the UK Cheese Awards at Nantwich.

Great Taste winners include Avondale Foods, a producer of soups, prepared vegetables and salads; Fivemiletown Creamery, a manufacturer of cheddar and soft cheeses; Mash Direct, a farm-based producer of convenience foods from potatoes and vegetables; and Rich Sauces, a manufacturer of sauces, mayo and boullion for the foodservice sector.

All participating companies on the Northern Ireland stand have business outside the region in markets such as Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. Furthermore, several supply products to markets beyond the British Isles including the US, the Middle East and Asia.

Dr Vicky Kell, Invest NI’s Trade Director, said: “The presentation at Food and Drink Expo represents the strength and quality of food and drink processing in Northern Ireland, a £3 billion industry which currently supplies around 40 per cent of output to customers in Great Britain, including all the main retailers and leading foodservice organisations. It’s a successful industry with a global focus. Companies work closely with Sainsbury, Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and Morrisons in the development of market-led and innovative products.

“In addition, Northern Ireland companies supply major international chains such as Wal-Mart and Safeway in the US, Carrefour, Auchan, Ahold, Galeries Lafayette, SuperCor, Mercadona and Jumbo in many parts of Europe.

“Food and drink processing is currently Northern Ireland’s second biggest manufacturing industry and a major contributor to the economy in terms of added-value products as well as employment.

“Food and drink in Northern Ireland is a dynamic and growing industry. In 2008, for instance, total food and drink sales increased by 6.3 per cent, contributing almost 20 per cent of Northern Ireland’s total manufacturing sales.  Exports grew by an impressive 19.5 per cent to £635 million, making food and drink our second biggest manufacturing exporter.

“Among the strengths of the Northern Ireland food processing industry is the very short supply chain to the region’s farms, a feature which strengthens traceability and overall wholesomeness.

“Supporting the industry’s growth in markets outside Northern Ireland is a highly efficient and modern transport and shipping infrastructure that includes companies specialising in refrigerated and chilled distribution. The Port of Belfast, for example, is among the most modern and busiest in the British Isles. Fast and efficient transport services ensure reliable delivery throughout the United Kingdom and to other parts of Europe,” she added.