Northern Ireland food and drink at top Mid East expo

Seven of Northern Ireland’s leading food processors will be bidding to win business in the Middle East by taking part in Gulfood 2008, the region’s largest food, foodservice and hospitality exhibition, from 24-27 February.

The group has been organised by Invest Northern Ireland and covers a range of sectors including dairy, spring water, coffee roasting, oat snacks and porridge, and seeds and dried fruits.

Five of the businesses are already selling to markets in the region including the Emirates and Jordan. They are: Classic Mineral Water, Coffee Merchant, Dale Farm Dairies, Fayrefield Foods, and White’s Speedicook. The remaining companies, Finlay Foods, Moira, and Kestrel Foods, Craigavon, are hoping to develop business in the region.

Fayrefield Foods of Belfast has had an office in Invest NI’s Technology and Development Centre in Dubai. Classic Mineral has also supplied spring water to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. White’s of Tandragee includes Jordan in its market portfolio and Lisburn-based Coffee Merchants has shipped its Java One ground coffee to the Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

The event is being held in the Dubai International Convention Centre and is expected to attract over 40,000 trade visitors from parts of the Middle East, South Asia, South East Asia and Africa.

The show attracted 2,500 exhibitors from 75 countries last year and is expected to exceed these figures in 2008. Northern Ireland will be taking part for the first time.

Alan Hingston, Invest NI’s Trade Director, says: “This trade-only show is now a cornerstone event for the food and hospitality industries, with visitors attending from food and beverage, hotel, retail, catering, as well as the equipment and technology sectors. It presents an ideal opportunity to Northern Ireland food companies seeking to build exports to these important global markets.

“Our companies will also be able to draw on the knowledge and experience of our team based in Dubai Internet City in pinpointing new business and in developing contacts.

“Several companies in sectors such as dairy products, mineral waters, breakfast cereals, and beverages including coffee, are already doing good business in markets such as Dubai, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, as well as Bangladesh.

“Some two billion consumers live in the United Arab Emirates and surrounding countries. Dubai is now one of the world’s fastest growing tourism destinations. Around 40 new five-star hotels are scheduled to be operating by the end of 2008 with over 18,000 rooms to be made available.

“By the end of next year Dubai will also be home to five of the world’s seven biggest shopping malls. Saudi Arabia has the largest economy in the Gulf with 70 per cent of its population under the age of 30, with immense spending power and a driving demand for new products. Overall, the Gulf region’s food imports exceed £6 billion annually.

“Demand for European food products is also growing strongly in Dubai and other Arabian Gulf markets. We believe there are worthwhile opportunities throughout the region for Northern Ireland food and soft drinks,” he added.

Gulfood 2008 - the 13th Gulf Food, Hotel and Equipment Exhibition and Salon Culinaire - is organised by Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC).

The presence at Gulfood is part of Invest NI’s extensive programme of business development events planned for the Middle East and for the food industry in particular during 2008. Food companies will also be able to take part in ThaiFex, a major Asian food event in Bangkok, later in the year.

Northern Ireland companies taking part in Gulfood in Dubai, United Arab Emirates from 24-27 February:

Classic Mineral Water, Lurgan – spring and mineral waters

Coffee Merchants, Lisburn – coffee roaster

Dale Farm Dairies, Belfast – dairy products including milk powder and cheese

Fayrefield Foods, Belfast – dairy products

Finlay’s Foods, Moira – bakery products

Kestrel Foods, Craigavon – dried fruits, nuts and seeds

White’s Speedicook, Tandragee – porridge oats and oat snacks