We’re open for business at Balmoral!

Article written by Food NI CEO Michele Shirlow, featured in Farming Life

We’re open for business at Balmoral. And what a remarkable first day it proved to be. The show, now among the biggest and most important in the UK and Ireland, continues to gather strength.

Our Food NI Pavilion was exceptionally busy on the first day and looks certain to prove more popular than ever with visitors from Northern Ireland and from further afield. It’s certainly the biggest we’ve organised and will exceed all previous records when the show closes its doors on Saturday evening.  It’s a show we look forward to every year.

We’ve more than 100 local companies showing the broadest range of locally produced food and drink at the show, food that’s grown here and not flown here. The Food NI Pavilion, our biggest commitment, was exceptionally busy on the first day.

It is certainly the most significant platform for local food and drink and helps to increase awareness among the general public of the breadth of quality food and drink now readily available here from innovative producers. It’s also an important seed bed of talent and innovation for the dozens of industry buyers who scout the show for new products.

Thousands of visitors had an unprecedented opportunity to sample the best of our food and drink and to meet the people making the products. The craic, as they say, was mighty. There were thousands to be sampled…and purchased. I understand from our member companies in particular that business was brisk.

It’s a hard but rewarding four days for participating companies in the Food Pavilion. They put a lot into the event and richly deserve the rewards for their commitment and enthusiasm.

Most of the local retailers and other businesses are playing their part in showcasing the best of our food and drink to their contacts and the wider public. Creating awareness of the quality of our food and drink is among FoodNI’s most important roles. Balmoral came ‘hot on the heels’ of another successful presentation of local food at Garden Show Ireland in Antrim and ahead of the start of the annual round of agricultural shows and food festivals.

These are immensely important events for smaller companies in particular, because they provide selling occasions that generate cash for the winter months and funds they can invest in new marketing activities and additional products.

In addition to providing a showcase for local products, FoodNI also counts on the skills of local chefs to help demonstrate innovative ways to enjoy local food and drink.
Over many years, we’ve been able to count on them for our culinary demonstrations at Balmoral. They are working with us again this year on our new Tasting theatre….and we greatly appreciate their support. We also welcome the engagement this year of Jean-Christophe Novelli, among the biggest international names in the culinary work.

He’ll be on our kitchens on Saturday and will be creating original dishes from the best of local produce. It’s tremendously encouraging to have Jean-Christophe now part of the Northern Ireland food team…and to see him committed to working with local suppliers in creating his unique Mediterranean-style dishes and contributing to our burgeoning reputation as a global food and drink centre.

I hope you will take the opportunity to visit this wonderful show and sample the very best of local produce.