To celebrate the outstanding successes of our food and drink members we were delighted to host a reception for companies which had won a host of awards for quality and taste in events in Britain and the Republic of Ireland. It was heart-warming to welcome dozens of companies clutching awards and trophies and it was a very visual spectacle of their success.
The reception was held in the wonderful surroundings of Hillsborough Castle visitor centre, now among our most beautiful attractions. I can certainly recommend a visit to the castle to readers of this column, the gardens are stunning.
We all enjoyed a superb selection of local food and drink created by Simon Dougan and Barry Smyth and their talented team. It’s no surprise that catering at the castle is under the stewardship of Yellow Door….and it’s excellent and impressively creative. Hillsborough has always been a great food and drink destination and the addition of the visitor centre has raised the village to another level.
We wanted to recognise and celebrate our member companies which are successfully raising the profile of Northern Ireland as genuinely world class food and drink destination. We are keen to see their talents, commitment and fabulous products recognised and encouraged. Our companies are becoming increasingly confident in the quality of their products and their ability to compete in Britain and Ireland.
The celebration event was made possible by the support of the Northern Ireland Regional Food Programme. Another initiative last week was a Northern Ireland food and drink presence at Gifted. This was part of the Invest NI’s important Small Business Food Programme delivered by FoodNI.
The feedback from companies taking part at Gifted at the RDS in Dublin last week were also immensely encouraging. I believe that the vast majority of the 15 companies taking part did worthwhile business. Among the most noticeable developments from the shows we’ve delivered for Invest NI as part of the Small Business Food Programme is the inspiring camaraderie involving all the participating companies.
They all work together enthusiastically and have been quick to help each other with advice, assistance and business leads. The passion they are demonstrating for their products and the wider industry is genuinely inspirational. They readily exchange information and experience and recommend products from other participants to shoppers keen to sample more local food.
One of the reasons for setting up Food NI was to promote such impressive teamwork throughout our biggest manufacturing industry.
And our strategic focus continues to be on promoting this approach and also to draw together other bodies involved in local food and drink, especially hospitality enterprises, to create an integrated and fully co-ordinated team working on behalf of this most important industry and the wider economy.
Food NI is looking forward to continuing our vitally important work for Invest NI during 2020. There’s a great deal we can all do to help accelerate the growth of food and drink companies, especially in markets outside of Northern Ireland.