The Food NI team has been busy making the final arrangements for what promises to be an immensely enjoyable and informative RUAS show at Balmoral Park. Supported by the Northern Ireland Regional Food Programme, it’s long been the most important event in our annual calendar especially in those days before the Covid pandemic paused so many food and drink events here and in Britain.
We’re glad to be back at Balmoral Park once again at what will be an adapted Food NI Food Pavilion, one which applies all the social distancing, mask wearing and hand sanitising rules for the safety of our exhibitors and the public. It comes as our work to support our friends in Invest NI at food shows in Britain has also resumed.
We’ve certainly missed the show since it was paused over the last two years by the awful pandemic which remains an ongoing threat. We are fully aware of this and have taken steps to ensure safety by implementing systems which promote social distancing and hand sanitation throughout the pavilion. This has also involved increasing space between stands and reducing companies this year. Visitor and participating company safety is a priority for us. We would urge visitors to comply with Government guidance.
I am sure that the changes won’t impact the enjoyment of visitors to the pavilion. They’ll have a much-awaited opportunity to experience the very best of our outstanding and award- winning food and drink. This year the cookery theatre will focus on food and drink experiences, which are a growing trend. With the emphasis on staycations and the trend for experiential tourism (i.e., where you actually get the chance to experience something new) this year we will have a number of presentations from food and drink experiences, such as gin tastings, orchard tours and cookery classes. These have been supported by TourismNI under their Embrace a Giant spirit brand, so many signature experiences supported by TourismNI now include a food or drink element.
The Food Pavilion, will open its doors at the show next Wednesday, ready to welcome thousands of visitors keen to the see and taste the very best food and drink from our companies of all sizes and from every category.
While social distancing has meant we’ve had to limit the number of participating companies and reduce opportunities for interaction, visitors will still be able to see some delicious and original food and drink from upwards of 35 producers, mostly artisan and smaller companies, from virtually every part of the country. Participating companies will still be able to talk about their products to existing and potential customers and get some worthwhile feedback.
There’ll be hundreds of innovative products in what will be the biggest celebration of the outstanding tastes and rich flavours from companies here including many which have won top awards for originality and quality in prestigious national and international food awards.
The Food Pavilion will still be the biggest presentation of local food and drink in almost two years.
I would urge you not to miss the opportunity the show provides to see the best of local food and drink from our dedicated and talented producers. They need and value your support as they recover steadily from the challenges of Covid and also from Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol. We all need to work together to support an industry which generates £5 billion annually to the local economy…and has the potential to make an even greater contribution in both short and long terms.