Small bakers helped to target export sales

Opportunities for small bakeries to develop products for markets outside Northern Ireland will be explored during a two-day market awareness trip to London organised by Invest NI from 28-29 November.

Fifteen local bakeries, mostly small enterprises, are taking part in the visit that will include market briefings on retail opportunities and visits to major stores and independent bakeries.  The delegation also includes RHM Bakeries in Belfast, one of Northern Ireland’s biggest bakeries, which recently launched a range of niche products under the Ormo ‘Deliciously So’ label. Howell House, another participant, has also introduced a Rankin Selection range of cakes.

They will be able to study trends in some of the UK’s biggest food retailers including Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer, John Lewis and Tesco. Niche bakeries such as Hummingbird, Portobello, Baker and Spice, Chelsea and Paul Patisserie in St Pauls are also included in the programme. The group, in addition, will visit the recently opened Whole Foods store in Kensington, a US concept focusing on organic and natural products which is influencing other food operations in London.

As well as these retail outlets, the group will meet management and traders at Borough Market, near London Bridge, which is Britain’s oldest market and one which now focuses on fine foods. The market is regarded as Great Britain’s principal centre of food excellence and includes 12 specialist bakeries among its regular traders.

Industry experts will also brief the delegation on market trends and on how to develop branded products which will help to increase sales especially in markets outside Northern Ireland.

Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI’s Director of Food, commenting on the initiative, said: “The market visit to London was put forward in our recently published strategy for the future development of the bakery industry in Northern Ireland.

“We’ve followed this by organising an extensive programme of briefings and visits to both retailers and bakers that is designed to point the way to companies wishing to grow their business outside Northern Ireland. We are keen to encourage them to look closely to opportunities there by maximising the industry’s reputation for quality products that are baked using natural ingredients, and appeal to current market trends.

“There are lessons for the industry from the success of retailers such as Whole Food who are developing significant business through a sharp focus on organic ingredients in particular. The visit also meets another of the report’s findings that craft bakeries tend to lack market knowledge. I am sure that the visit will plug this gap and help the companies to explore opportunities in areas such as the growing demand for organic products,” he adds.