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Michele Shirlow – The Best Local Christmas

Won’t be long now to the Christmas festivities really get underway. I am sure most readers of this column have completed most of the main ingredients for dinner and other meals over the holiday period. I’ve still a few things to sort out over the next few days.

Our focus in Food NI continues to be on making it the best local Christmas possible. And we certainly have plenty of superb local food and drink to enjoy. Indeed I believe the choice of local premium quality local produce is probably better than ever before.

We’ve certainly seen many innovative products launched during 2017 by producers, both large and small, in what is easily Northern Ireland’s most dynamic and customer-focused industry. Growth in such a fast moving consumer industry demands the sharpest possible focus on innovation in products and customer services.

Smaller companies certainly know from dealing with shoppers at markets across the country know what they need to do to prosper in such an exacting and competitive environment. Most have also learned just how important expertise in sales and marketing is, especially for very small enterprises.

We’d certainly be keen to expand our role in 2018 to support companies in mastering these important disciplines. We supported a number of businesses which took part in two major Food NI initiatives during the year – the Speciality and Fine Food Show in London and BBC Good Food Winter Fair in Birmingham. We aim to be organising a Food NI presence at both these and other food events in Britain during 2018.

Among hugely important selling occasions we are already planning is the first-ever Food NI pavilion at the big Borough Market, one of the busiest in London. But more, much more of this after the festivities. It’s going to be a tremendous opportunity for our companies.

Some recent market surveys have also reinforced two of the most important features of the food and drink we offer – heritage and transparency – both particularly apparent in festive food. International market experts believe that consumers are moving increasingly towards producers who are bringing culinary traditions to life and the personal stories that define our food. And they are keen on producers who can show transparency in their products and processes.

Well, Food NI has been focusing on both for some considerable time and they underpinned our acclaimed Taste the Greatness strategic action plan. We will continue to work with our companies to enable them to harness the undoubted business potential of the heritage and transparency which are such a feature of all our food and drink during 2018 and the years ahead.

And it’s important too that local companies invest the time and others resources in reinforcing their messages about heritage and transparency in both home and external markets especially Britain and the Republic of Ireland. The platforms we intend to provide particularly in Britain will help them succeed.

From all at Food NI, enjoy the Christmas break.