Northern Ireland’s reputation as a food-producing region is going from strength to strength.
That was the message from Economy Minister Simon Hamilton and Junior Minister Alastair Ross at the official opening of the 8th Tesco Taste Northern Ireland Festival.
Officially opening the festival before an audience which included local producers and food industry buyers from across the United Kingdom, Simon Hamilton said: “Events such as this provide a great opportunity for suppliers and producers to get together, sample new products, forge loyalty and fuel innovation. At the same time, they serve to showcase the outstanding quality and diverse nature of our food and drink produce and take on an added significance in what is Northern Ireland’s Year of Food & Drink. The sector is Northern Ireland’s single biggest industry and the fact that we’re now exporting to over 70 countries is testament to the increased global awareness that our produce now enjoys.
“Northern Ireland boasts the highest quality raw ingredients, state of the art processing facilities and the world class food security record which major retailers demand. Our relationships with customers are based on a trust that we can not only respond to market changes, but anticipate and use them to our advantage. For their part, customers play a crucial role in building brand awareness and helping our businesses to grow in the wider UK market.
“Northern Ireland food has truly global potential and Invest NI will continue to promote the pure, natural quality of our produce in key markets outside Northern Ireland.”
Junior Minister Alastair Ross said: “Now in its 8th year the Taste NI event is a firm fixture and offers visitors a culinary tour of Northern Ireland. This free event brings together 60 local food and drink suppliers and showcases the excellence of Northern Ireland produce. From the small artisan companies to the well know local brands here today, quality has been the watchword which has led to a global appreciation of our foodstuffs.
“Our food processing industry has a proven track record for growth, even in this challenging current economic climate, and it is vital that we continue to promote all that Northern Ireland has to offer.”
Taste Northern Ireland is a campaign Tesco has been running for seven years. The initiative comprises many activities including in-store signage and sampling events, advertising, and sponsorship, all geared to promoting food and drinks grown, sourced and produced in Northern Ireland. Celebrations culminate in the Custom House Square Festival in September, where some 25,000 visitors are expected this year.