Major campaign to boost food industry unveiled

Food and drink companies will have greater opportunities than ever before to boost sales in Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland and overseas during 2007 as a result of a comprehensive and co-ordinated marketing campaign developed by Invest Northern Ireland.

Over the next three days almost 100 food companies will be briefed about the campaign by Maynard Mawhinney, Director of Invest NI’s recently formed Food Division, at a series of breakfast events in Belfast, Antrim and Portadown.

Mr Mawhinney said: “Exciting opportunities for local companies will flow from what is the most extensive ever marketing campaign lined up by Invest NI for food and drink, one of our most important and sustainable industries.“We are implementing a new strategy designed to help the industry realise its enormous potential. The statistics show the strength of the industry’s commitment to the local economy. Almost 450 companies had sales in 2005 of £2.5 billion – 18.9 per cent of Northern Ireland’s total manufacturing sales and employing almost 19,000 people, around a fifth of the total workforce in manufacturing.

“The marketing campaign is one element in the strategy which has been agreed with the industry through the Fit for Market strategy in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and Invest NI,” he added.

The activities include:

•The biggest-ever presence of Northern Ireland food and drink companies at the International Food Exhibition (IFE) in London (18-21 March) – 19 companies and a further nine represented by the Ulster Pork and Bacon Forum;

•The first-ever Northern Ireland presence of 18 companies at ScotHot (26-28th Feb), the Scottish food services and hospitality exhibition in Glasgow;

•The biggest-ever programme of ‘Meet the Buyer’ type events including inward visits from Great Britain and the Republic;

•Northern Ireland stands at major exhibitions such as Marketplace Ireland in Dublin (23-24th May) and Anuga (13-17th October) in Cologne.

Mr Mawhinney said: “This means a sharper focus on the needs of companies and a more targeted delivery of services by a dedicated team of staff assigned to implement the strategy working across divisions within Invest NI and with DARD.

“We’ve already appointed three dedicated food marketing experts in Great Britain and the Republic who are now helping our companies by identifying leads and arranging visits by key retailers.

“Our Trade team is also working with a group of companies to export to the Netherlands under our ‘Going Dutch’ scheme. This gives the participating companies access to an experienced trade consultancy in Amsterdam which will help them to develop new business leads.

“Further opportunities for companies will flow from the recent memorandum of understanding that we’ve signed with Bord Bia. The benefits from this will include more extensive and up-to-date market research and collaboration on all island ‘meet the buyer’ events and the marketing of regional foods.”

Mr Mawhinney also announced that a customised suite of programmes is now available to help companies strengthen capability in areas such as marketing, key account management and productivity.