A new organisation has been set up in Northern Ireland to boost the image of its food industry, both domestically and internationally, improve skills and drive innovation.
The government-funded Food Strategy Implementation Partnership, which comprises senior executives from the food and farming industry, academics and research bodies, has secured £4.5m extra cash from the government to implement the recommendations of the Food Strategy Group.
The strategy group, which was formed earlier this year, has delivered 31 recommendations outlining how the province’s food and drink industry could better co-ordinate promotional activities, develop a clearer identity in the world market, drive supply chain efficiency and boost sector skills.
Former Enterprise Ireland CEO Dan Flinter, who will chair the new implementation
partnership, said consumers were labouring under the misconception that Northern Ireland was heavily industrialised, which wasn’t great for food marketing activities, in which rolling hills and wide open space typically appealed to consumers.
He added: “We need to raise the profile of this industry both through local and international promotional activities. There is a real discontinuity between the high quality of the food we produce and its image.”
The seven-strong FSIP, which includes IGD chief executive Joanne Denney-Finch and Linden Foods joint MD Richard Moore, would act as an overview group, ensuring concrete progress was made, said Flinter. “There is real momentum. We have to keep that going.”
Recommendations include: the development of new local and exports-oriented marketing campaigns; the creation of a new market development team; the creation of funds to help finance supply chain initiatives, market research and technology-driven innovation and schemes to attract more top quality recruits to the sector.
Ian Pearson, minister for agriculture and rural development, said: “The partnership will be at the heart of building a stronger relationship between food producers, processors and retailers.”
Elaine Watson