Article written by Michele Shirlow for Farm Week- 21st January 2016
Two cornerstone events for Year of Food and Drink are currently being finalised and will provide huge scope for local companies to grow sales.
The two events are the Food NI Food and Drink Pavilion at the annual RUAS show at Balmoral Park from 11-13 May and the BBC Good Food Show in the new Waterfront Hall extension from 14-16 October.
It’s likely that upwards of 100 local food and drink companies including many artisan enterprises will be showing and sampling products at Balmoral, which attracted around 100,000 visitors last year, clearly our most successful year to date.
Our Food and Drink Pavilion was a huge success with both visitors and local businesses in 2015. There was a tremendous buzz in the pavilion during the event and many thousands of visitors were introduced to quality and innovative food and drink from local producers. As a result of this success, I am confident that the upcoming event will set new records in terms of participating companies and visitors to the pavilion.
Once again the pavilion will feature an extensive programme of cookery demonstrations by leading chefs and using the best local produce. We have extensive international media visits planned to visit the food pavilion this year which is a great opportunity.
BBC Good Food Show, one of the biggest events in the UK food and drink calendar, will be staged in Northern Ireland for the very first time.
The organisers have a tremendous track record in staging such shows in England, Scotland and Wales. It’s great to see Northern Ireland now featuring in the schedule for an initial contract period of three years. It’s expected to attract around 10,000 visitors in October. I’d certainly hope to see a great many more visitors from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and other parts of the UK taking part in this important business event.
The show is also a consumer focused event. As is the case with our pavilion at Balmoral, BBC Good Show is consumer focused and designed to provide an ideal platform to highlight our award winning food and drink companies, place the spotlight on our talented chefs and celebrated restaurants, and spread the word about Northern Ireland as a great foodie destination. It’s an event that is designed to enable our companies to increase awareness of their products and to sell.
I am sure that local companies will get behind both events. TourismNI, DARD and InvestNI are certainly keen to ensure the success of the BBC Good Food Show because of its standing throughout the UK and indeed further afield.
The organisers also intend to market it extensively in the Republic to attract participants, buyers and visitors. It’s vitally important that our companies grasp the business opportunity provided by both Balmoral and the BBC Good Show.
Foodie hearts are already aflutter as the initial line-up will feature BBC chef James Martin, Bake-off’s Paul Hollywood and the Hairy Bikers. There will be plenty of local culinary talent to see at Balmoral too. So put these dates in your diary now.