International buyers help local food companies export

Top buyers from the US, Britain and Greece were introduced to over 70 local food and drink companies at a series of events hosted by Invest Northern Ireland in Belfast last week. The objective of the events was to help the companies access markets outside Northern Ireland, early indications strongly suggest that multi-million pounds worth of business has been secured in North America.

Among the international buying teams were senior representatives of Pace Target, a New Jersey based food sales business, and Burris Logistics of Milford Delaware, which has a network of 15 chilled warehouses across the US and a fleet of distribution trucks.

Opportunities in Great Britain were outlined by FW Retail of Derbyshire, part of the Elbar Group, one of the UK’s biggest food distribution companies, and Scotland’s Fresh Food Company.

Exploring European opportunities with the Northern Ireland companies was John Taosanis, an Athens-based international food broker.

The participating companies met the buyers on a one-to-one basis at Invest NI’s Belfast offices. In addition, the buyers visited several local companies to continue discussions about opportunities for their products.

In welcoming the visit and following a meeting with the visiting overseas buyers, Alastair Hamilton, Chief Executive, Invest NI said: “As well as helping companies to win more business in Great Britain, now our biggest market for food and drink, we’ve been exploring ways to introduce more companies to key markets in the US and mainland Europe. Food and drink is a £3 billion industry with immense export potential.

“In addition to bringing buying organisations to Northern Ireland from the US, we’ve introduced our companies to major distribution businesses from this potentially very important marketplace.

“We believe that there’s substantial scope for local food and drink producers in the US and mainland Europe. These ‘meet the buyer’ events enable potential customers and distributors to see our products and talk to companies about whatever steps they need to take to improve their prospects of success in the US and Europe.

“The buyers can also advise companies in areas such as packaging and marketing techniques. It’s all part of an essential knowledge transfer that enhances confidence, particularly within smaller enterprises, and highlights areas for new product development to meet US market opportunities.

“A number of companies are blazing trails in the US and mainland Europe from sectors such as beef and lamb, dairy products and snacks. We aim to help these companies build their markets and to encourage many more to follow their examples,” he added.

Over the past year, Invest NI has hosted almost 30 ‘meet the buyer events’, realising almost 450 introductions between buyers and Northern Ireland food and drink companies.