Industry and government come together at first Northern Ireland Food and Drink Conference
Collaboration between industry and government will be key to keeping Northern Ireland at the cutting edge of food innovation, quality and sustainability, delegates heard at the inaugural Northern Ireland Food and Drink Conference.
Held by NIFDA in partnership with the Department for Business and Trade, the Food Standards Agency and Invest Northern Ireland, the conference took place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on 25th April 2023.
The first conference of its kind, the event saw 150 delegates from across industry and government come together to discuss market megatrends, the regulatory environment and the opportunities for growth.
Speaking at the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Conference, Minister of State for Northern Ireland Steve Baker said:
“Northern Ireland has a proud history of producing high-quality food and drink, and I am delighted to see the sector go from strength to strength.
“This region is home to many innovative and dynamic companies, and the UK Government is committed to continuing to support the Northern Ireland food and drink industry’s success.
“We recognise the importance of this sector to the overall UK economy, and are working hard to ensure that businesses have the support they need to succeed.
“Events like this inaugural NIFDA conference, and the upcoming Northern Ireland investment summit in Belfast in September, provide the perfect opportunity for Northern Ireland businesses to demonstrate their potential to the world, achieving investment and prosperity.”
Michael Bell OBE, Executive Director, Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) said:
“This is a key moment for Northern Ireland food and drink as we adapt to new trading arrangements, the need to make sustainability gains and ever-evolving regulatory and consumer market trends.
“As an industry that feeds over 10 million people across these islands and beyond, we want to identify the opportunity in these challenges and grow further. That has been the focus of our first Northern Ireland Food and Drink Conference – a unique new forum for industry and government to come together, learn from each other and share the insights to make us even more sustainable, export-driven and commercially successful.
“We were delighted to have such a strong line up of speakers for this inaugural conference to explore topics spanning consumer and market megatrends, the ‘green growth’ potential of sustainability, the benefits of integrating new advanced manufacturing technologies and how we can boost our exports.
“This collaboration between industry and government is critical both to taking Northern Ireland food and drink to the next level and growing the economy. Ours is the largest single manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland, supporting some 113,000 jobs across the region, and has a key role to play in improving the security, sustainability, and integrity of the UK food system.”
Delegates heard from retail market expert Dr Clive Black and Louise Robinson, Commercial Excellence and Client Impact Director at Kantar who shared insights on food economics and future consumer trends, while Groceries Code Adjudicator Mark White discussed supply chain relationships and Food Standards Agency Chief Executive Emily Miles addressed the conference on the agency’s work with industry.
Current and future exporting opportunities were shared by both Rachel Gywon, Director for Agriculture, Food and Drink, and Nations, Department for Business and Trade and Ian Wright CBE, Co-Chair of the new UK Food & Drink Exports Council.