How Food NI is assisting sales and exports

Article written by Food NI CEO, Michele Shirlow for FarmWeek on 21st April 2016

micheleOne of our most important activities is encouraging and assisting artisan and smaller food companies to take part in major consumer events that provide an effective platform to increase sales. Being face to face with a customer is a great way to get feedback too!

Our Food Pavilion, at the hugely successful RUAS event at Balmoral Park, is probably the best-known example of this key marketing role for Food NI. As I mentioned in last week’s column, companies that have taken part in the Food Pavilion achieve significant sales and also make invaluable contacts with the buyers we invite along.
Another example of this pro-active support is the development of the Taste of Ulster shop at Belfast International Airport, now featuring almost 30 local producers. Aelia, the global business that runs the airport duty-free shop, has been tremendously supportive. Management responded quickly and very positively when approached to consider such an initiative- see more on our ‘Taste of Ulster TV’ You Tube channel.

In addition to artisan products in the shop in Departures, Aelia is showcasing spirits being distilled here including Dunville Irish Whiskey, The Quiet Man Irish Whiskey, Jawbox and Shortcross gins and Ruby Blue Vodka, It has several local craft beers and plans to introduce ciders very soon.

We are also working closely with the organisers of the BBC Good Food Show, one of the biggest consumer-focused exhibitions in the food and drink calendar in the UK, on the show at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast in October. This event promises to be a huge attraction and a great opportunity for smaller companies, in particular, to reach out to consumers from Northern Ireland, the Republic and even Great Britain. We are determined that the show will be an outstanding success.

To enable smaller producers to take part, we have agreed with the organisers to arrange a unique and very exciting Year of Food and Drink Village at the Show, which will take place in Northern Ireland for the first time between 14th and 16th October.

The event is set to attract over 12,000 to the newly developed Waterfront venue. Our village producers will allow businesses to showcase our quality food and drink producers and celebrate the Year of Food and Drink overall. Our initiative will increase awareness of the quality and breadth of local products and lead to sales.
We’d love to take the Northern Ireland Food Village to the other BBC Good Food Shows in Birmingham, London and Glasgow as well as the Speciality Fine Food Fair in London. Northern Ireland really should have a significant presence at these events at the heart of the biggest market for our food and drink.

This highly prestigious BBC Good Food, 78 per cent of visitors to which are in the ABC1 socioeconomic bracket, is a wonderful opportunity for our local producers – from the smallest to the largest – to promote their top quality products.

Based on figures from other hugely successful BBC Good Food Show events in cities across the UK last year, we expect an average spend from the mainly female visitor of over £100, which leaves plenty of opportunity for sales and, just as importantly, exposure.

To be eligible for a stand in Food NI’s Year of Food and Drink Village applicants must be a Northern Ireland food or drink company with products made here, using local ingredients where possible, and sourcing, using and promoting Northern Ireland produce. Companies should also be enhancing the reputation of Northern Ireland as a quality food and drink destination.

The show will be a major focal point of Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink celebrations and will bring the best of our food and drink to life, from demonstration theatres featuring talented local chefs, to this dedicated Food Village which will play host to regional producers. Tickets are a great idea for a gift for any foodie and I encourage you to book early. Further details of this and other events are available on our website at