‘Flat to the mat’ to ensure success of Balmoral Food

Just over a week now until the doors open on the Food NI Food and Drink Pavilion, one of the biggest features in the annual RUAS at Balmoral Park. The show, of course, is now firmly established as among the biggest and most successful events of its type in Europe thanks to the dedicated RUAS team. It’s certainly a show that we all look forward to in Food NI.

The opening of the huge food and drink pavilion will be the culmination of many months of dedicated and highly skilled work by the small (but mighty) team at Food NI to ensure a successful showcase of what is now our single biggest manufacturing industry and one which ships product to around 80 countries across the world.

The resilience of our food sector has been highlighted in recent years by global events such as covid and conflicts around the world, we really are lucky here in Northern Ireland to have such a great industry and so much local food and drink at home.

We’ll start planning for an even bigger Balmoral 2025 within weeks of the doors closing on this year’s event. It’s become a labour of love for the team, a dedication which merits support and recognition. Much is achieved annually from very limited resources. Thankfully we have support from DAERA, TourismNI, InvestNI, and several councils, as well as theatre kitchen sponsors Tesco and Moy Park. It’s a real team effort to support the industry.

Food and drink, I regret to say, hasn’t always received the credit it deserves in the ‘corridors of power’ at Stormont for being vital to life, as well as generating around £5 billion annually and more than 100,000 jobs for the local economy. And I am convinced the industry has significant scope for even faster growth – given greater resources and attention within Government.

I know that readers of Farm Week, a publication which has long showcased the achievements of the food and drink industry in its extensive coverage of farming issues and successes here. will spend time in the pavilion and encourage their family and friends to do the same.

I am convinced that visitors to the showcase will be amazed by the variety of food and drink now being produced locally and by the willingness of producers to talk about their work and achievements. We have over 100 food and drink exhibitors, including 30 first timers. Balmoral is simply the best opportunity to learn about our vast array of food and drink and to find out how these are being produced by talented and highly skilled producers.

We all hope visitors to the pavilion will be encouraged by everything they see and learn about in the pavilion to give priority to locally produced food and drink in the supermarkets, convenience stores and independent grocers and off-licenses across Northern Ireland.

With upwards of 100 food and drink companies, there will also be over 80 buyers in attendance from multiple retailers, speciality stores, and farm shops. The majority of the exhibiting companies are already selling into Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland and some even further afield. White’s Oats for example sells to 80 countries around the world, and there are emerging exporters such as Burren Balsamic and Irish Black Butter. The teams of buyers from Britain and the Republic, brought in by InvestNI, will be seeking new taste ideas for shoppers, And they’ll find plenty of ideas in the pavilion, they always have done in the past.

There’ll be a special section highlighting the successes of our distilleries now producing multi-award-winning whiskeys, gins, vodka and poitin. Northern Ireland also has a flourishing non-alcoholic sector that includes Kombucha, minerals, apple juices, teas and coffees.

Another important aspect of the pavilion drawn together by our team are the culinary kitchens supported by major companies such as Moy Park and Tesco and showcasing many of our most talented chefs.

These sessions have always drawn many thousands of visitors keen on cooking tips and eager to sample some of the dishes created by the chefs of the calibre of Noel McMeel of Derry’s Ebrington Hotel and Spa, and Lottie Noren od Belfast’s EDO. The culinary sessions will offer much food for thought and taste again this year. Again, they will feature locally produced food and drink, demonstrating how best to use local variety, quality and innovation to create standout dishes.

TourismNI will also have an experience stage featuring local food and drink experiences this year, such as their Embrace a Giant Spirits Trail, local cookery schools, and food tours across Northern Ireland.

There really will be something tasty for everyone in the pavilion to eat, drink and experience next week…