Invest NI helps food companies reach international buyers

Natural flavours and original ideas from Northern Ireland’s food and drink companies will be showcased on the Invest Northern Ireland stands at the Food and Drink Expo at the NEC, Birmingham, from 25-27 March.

Upwards of 1,000 food and drink products will be on show from 10 Northern Ireland companies including five businesses which have won gold in the prestigious UK Great Taste Awards.

Dr Vicky Kell, Invest NI Trade Director, said: “Providing opportunities for Northern Ireland companies to present their high quality and innovative food at international exhibitions such as Food and Drink Expo is a key element in our strategic focus on helping this exceptionally important industry to grow exports. We have an extensive schedule of promotional activities at international food shows in the US, Europe, the Gulf and China.

“The products showcased demonstrate the dedication of Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry, currently generating over £3 billion annually to the local economy, to innovative concepts that offer taste, wholesomeness, value for money and distinctive provenance.

“As a result of this dedication, 90 per cent of Northern Ireland’s food and drink products are sold outside the region, mostly to Great Britain. This demonstrates the industry’s overall competitiveness through quality, innovation, added-value and customer services. Increasingly companies, both large and small, are pursuing and winning business abroad in markets as diverse as the US, China, South Africa and the Middle East,” added Dr Kell.

All the companies on the stands at the Food and Drink Expo have experience of supplying retail and foodservice customers outside Northern Ireland. The food and drink show at Birmingham covers virtually every market segment including convenience meals, desserts, healthy snacks and ingredients.

Existing customers for Northern Ireland food and drink companies include all the main retailers such Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Waitrose, John Lewis and Harrods, as well as leading independents throughout the UK and Republic of Ireland.

New product launches include award-winning pies, cooked meats, pasta meals, Irish goats’ cheese logs and coated rice snacks for healthier snacking.

Three of the companies will be showing at the Food and Drink Expo for the first time – Cloughbane, a farm-based business specialising in pies and ready meals; Fresh Food Kitchen, a leading Northern Ireland processor of salads, pasta meals and sandwich fillings for the ‘food to go’ market; and Flynn’s Fine Foods, a processor of cooked meats and frozen meals from ingredients sourced from farms mostly in County Fermanagh.

All companies on the Northern Ireland stand naturally source raw materials and ingredients from Northern Ireland farms, which ensures the provenance, quality and safety of the products. The Classic Mineral Water Company, for example, draws from its own spring.

Dale Farm, Northern Ireland’s biggest dairy company, Fivemiletown Creamery, the region’s only producer of handmade soft cheeses, and Mullin’s Pure Dairy Ice Cream, each source fresh milk from their separate networks of local farms.

Most of the participating companies have a strong artisan heritage including Howell’s Handmade, part of Irwin’s, one of the region’s biggest bakeries and still locally owned. Howell’s makes a broad range of cakes, tray bakes and biscuits using traditional baking techniques to create distinctively rich flavours.

As a result of this commitment to traditional techniques and local sourcing combined with extensive investment in modern facilities and superb hygiene, Northern Ireland has become a major source of original, richly flavoured and wholesome food and drink ideas.