Ten top buyers from six leading food services companies in Great Britain were given an opportunity by Invest Northern Ireland to sample quality products from around 50 local companies during a major inward buying mission yesterday.
Executives from the Northern Ireland companies, which covered a broad range of food sectors, had an opportunity to pitch for business from two of the UK’s leading vending machine operators, Autobar and The Vending Corporation, and Reading-based Charlton House, which provides catering services to private and public sector clients such as HM Treasury, Sony, T-Mobile and the Civil Aviation Authority.
Other prominent companies from Great Britain taking part in the one-to-one meetings with Northern Ireland businesses during the day-long event were Alden’s, Dunn’s and Out of the Box. Alden’s of Oxford is an important supplier of meat products to hotels, bars and restaurants in Great Britain.
The event, which was held in Invest NI’s Belfast headquarters and was the first of its kind from Great Britain, was the latest in a drive to expand food and drink sales in Great Britain by Invest NI’s Food Division. Each Northern Ireland company had an opportunity to display their products to individual buyers.
The buying organisations were identified and invited to visit Northern Ireland by Invest NI’s two dedicated food marketing consultants in England. It was organised by Invest NI in conjunction with the Department for Agriculture and Rural Affairs (DARD).
DARD will be hosting a visit by the buyers today to Loughrey Food Technology College at Cookstown. They will also be meeting senior executives from around 20 local companies.
Maynard Mawhinney, Director of Invest NI’s Food Division, commenting on the initiative, said: “This focus on the food services sector followed a series of very successful ‘meet the buyer’ events that we organised last year with buyers from multiple retailers such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda.
“This is another significant sector within the food industry which has been experiencing substantial growth and offers important opportunities for our many local companies. A number of these already have good business with companies in Great Britain. Our aim in organising the event was to create a platform for existing suppliers to increase business and to enable newcomers to make contacts that could lead to first-time orders.
“We’ve targeted the vending industry in particular because of the move to substitute existing snacks with healthier products in vending machines in schools and other locations.
“In addition, the event was in line with our strategic focus on increasing awareness of the broad range of quality and innovative products which are now readily available for food services from Northern Ireland suppliers, particularly small to medium sized enterprises.
“Our companies will also have gleaned invaluable market knowledge from the buyers that could have an important influence in areas such as new product development, packaging and merchandising. The visit to Loughrey College is a further example of the coordinated approach by Invest NI and DARD in promoting the highly developed infrastructure Northern Ireland can provide in respect of food innovation, research and development.
“During the year ahead we will be providing further opportunities to our companies to meet and discuss business with buyers from Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.
“They will also have opportunities to explore business in international markets by taking part in Invest NI stands and business development visits to international markets including the Anuga food exhibition in Cologne,” he adds.