A major Food & Drink innovation showcase, ‘Food for Thought’, will take place on the 27th October at the Armagh City Hotel, as part of the two year ‘Fit for Market’ strategy to develop Northern Ireland’s food sector.
It is anticipated that the showcase event, backed jointly by Invest Northern Ireland and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), supported by the Food Strategy Implementation Partnership (FSIP) will attract hundreds of delegates from across Northern Ireland’s food industry.
“This event will highlight the importance that innovation plays within the food industry. For companies to compete effectively they must invest heavily in both innovative new products and innovative marketing techniques,” said Dan Flinter, FSIP Chairman.
Speaking on the Innovation Showcase Michael Hall from Kestrel Foods, which manufactures the 'Forest Feast' range of products, said: “Innovation and new product development is very important to my business. I am particularly looking forward to hearing the experiences of the speakers who have been involved in developing successful new products.”
Specialist speakers at the event will include James Averdieck, founder and Managing Director of Gü Chocolate Puds and Dr Chris Brown, Agricultural Strategy Manager of ASDA who will demonstrate the importance of continual innovation to meet the needs of consumers in an increasingly demanding marketplace.
Commenting on the importance of the event Maynard Mawhinney, Director of Food at Invest NI said:
“Northern Ireland’s food industry is the lifeblood of our local economy. However it must compete in the global market where cheaper imports are a fact of life. Only by investing in R&D and new product development will companies be able to continue to achieve increased sales and secure a healthy profit.”
The findings of a major study by Invest NI and An Bord Bia (The Irish Food Board) on current consumer eating habits will be discussed at the event giving local food companies an important and detailed insight into changing consumer trends.
Conference delegates will also get the opportunity to influence Government policy through specially designed interactive sessions on a range of issues relating to the development of the industry, the outputs of which will help shape Government’s agenda for food.
Discussing the relevance of the showcase to the industry David Small, Director of Farm, Food and Environmental Policy in DARD said:
“This event has been specifically designed to help develop the food sector within Northern Ireland. Currently it is facing tough competition from overseas and needs to focus more on innovation if it is to continue to grow. By attending the showcase we hope to encourage companies to think about what practical steps they can take to improve their competitiveness and to learn of the R&D assistance available from Government.”