Michele Shirlow for Hospitality Review March 2018

Food NI’s role in promoting the local food and drink and hospitality sectors has
grown substantially over the past year. We have expanded the number of councils
supporting food and drink and our expertise and experience in organising the hugely
successful Food and Drink Pavilion annually at the Royal Ulster Agricultural
Society’s Show at Balmoral Park has helped us immensely in creating a springboard
for showcasing the industry in Britain.

We’ve broken records both in terms of companies participating with us at Balmoral
and in attendance figures. Balmoral Food Pavilion continues to be at the heart of our
business strategy because it enables us to showcase the quality and originality of
the food and drink now being produced by local companies, especially the smaller
enterprises which are the backbone of Northern Ireland’s most enterprising and
successful industry.

There’s always a tremendous buzz in the Food NI pavilion at the show. And many of
the participating companies do really good business there, business which enables
them to explore opportunities for their products both here and outside the region.
And Balmoral also enables Food NI to continue to develop important initiatives for
the industry and especially our 450 members in manufacturing and foodservice.
These successful initiatives include two unique guides covering Taste of Ulster
Restaurants and local Producers. Both are used here and abroad to showcase the
quality of our food and drink and signposting our excellent hotels and restaurants
especially in Britain.

Our promotional activities during the year have included presentations at major
industry events in London such as Speciality and Fine Food at Olympia in London
and BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham. In addition, in March, we arranged the
first-ever Northern Ireland food and drink presentation at the immensely popular and
influential Borough Market in London’s Southwark district, an initiative encouraged
and facilitated by the market’s development manager David Matchett, originally from
Portadown. Our presence at Borough Market was assisted by Tourism Ireland,
Tourism NI and Invest NI.

Borough Market would be keen to see some of our high quality food and drink
companies there on a regular basis and placed orders for several products including
cheese from Ballylisk Dairy in Tandragee and Abernethy Butter in Dromora.
What our presentations at Borough and other shows demonstrate, is a growing
acceptance of our food and drink as being premium quality with outstanding flavours.


As well as promoting food and drink, such presentations also help to increase
awareness of Northern Ireland as a destination for great food and drink at superb
restaurants and bars. The quality of food and drink is increasingly a major influence
on decisions to visit a particular destination. Visitors spend around a third of their
holiday budget on dining out and snacking and the food factor is moving up the
decision making hierarchy.

We would certainly wish to do more in Britain….and have the skills and experience
to deliver for our companies and the wider Northern Ireland community in terms of
tourist awareness. Additional resources will be required to continue to raise the
profiles of both sectors in Britain. There’s also a case for greater collaboration on
promotional activities involving all stakeholders. By pooling resources we can create
even more impressive presentations of the very best of Northern Ireland