Rich vein of talented entrepreneurs in food and drink

I had the opportunity recently to help in compiling the shortlist of potential winners of a remarkable competition organised by George Best Belfast City Airport along with the airport’s Katy Best. And what an impressive shortlist it turned out to be of local companies seeking to win £30,000 of marketing support at Belfast City.

We worked closely with local councils to generate interest in what is surely one of the most valuable marketing opportunities ever offered to food and drink producers here. It’s certainly a competition worth winning.

The fact that we were able to shortlist 30 excellent companies is a measure of the popularity of the competition and the high level of interest from a very broad range of companies here. The companies are bidding for a £30,000 marketing prize offered by the airport. The winner will be showcased around the airport and in its social media activity. It’s a tremendous opportunity to create awareness among almost three million passengers annually from around the world especially Great Britain, a priority market for Food NI. The winning producer will clearly have a tremendous profile that should surely boost sales.

The shortlisted products will feature on the airports Facebook page (George Best Belfast City Airport) for people here to nominate their favourites. The 10 most popular entrants then progress to the final where they will be subjected to a rigorous tasting session by a panel of food and drink experts including Master Chef Judge Charles Campion. Each of the 30 shortlisted are highly deserving of the prize.

Award competitions such as the airport’s initiative are hugely important in terms of the opportunity provided to smaller companies in particular to raise awareness about their business and products among consumers.

Growing awareness of the quality of food and drink now readily available here is among the most important objectives in Taste the Greatness, Food NI’s strategic action plan for the next five years.

Greater awareness, we believe, contributes to increasing sales and the development here of a vibrant local market for our food and drink. Success in competitions also has an impact on retailers and foodservice organisations which are always keen to consider new and different taste experiences.

We’ve been encouraged, furthermore, by the news that more local companies than ever before have been shortlisted in the influential Delicious magazine’s Food Producer Awards. Delicious is among the most influential publication’s in Britain with foodies.

The shortlisted companies will be considered along with others from elsewhere in the UK for the top award. Northern Ireland’s shortlisted companies will feature strongly on the magazine’s website.

Delicious magazine, I understand, is also planning a digital ‘DeliShops” marketing platform for companies to promote themselves and win business. Delicious has extensive traffic – more than one million – on its existing website, without an ecommerce offer.

There are no set up fees, so companies chosen pay commission only when they sell something. The magazine is particularly keen to attract a significant Northern Ireland presence on the new site.

Another important competition which companies here should consider is the Irish Quality Food Awards, an event that has an influence on retailers especially in the Republic of Ireland. The deadline for entries is 31st May. Check out