Northern Ireland should have its own overseas marketing body for local food, a leading player in the industry has claimed.
Speaking at a key corporate event at the Balmoral Show, the annual Ulster Bank Lunch, George Mullan MD of leading meat processor ABP Northern Ireland said the excellence of the province’s food and drink sector was “a story Northern Ireland needs to tell better to a global audience”.
“The potential for Northern Ireland’s food and drink sector is huge,” he said.
“We have a reputation for producing high quality natural products and I believe that the introduction of a Food Marketing Body would be a game changer for everyone involved in the sector and for the wider economy.”
As new and emerging international markets were driving demand for food and drink products, he said a collective voice needed to be heard.
“If you take beef as an example, all the indications are that global consumption will increase until 2022 at least.
“This will be driven by population growth and household wealth in developing global markets such as Asia.”
Adding that the same dynamics could be applied to almost any food product he added: “Improved access to international markets assisted by the relevant expert marketing support has the potential to position Northern Ireland as a global centre of excellence when it comes to the production of quality naturally produced food.”
Welcoming the contribution of both Mr Mullan and fellow speaker David Keeling of the family run fruit business based in the Irish Republic.
“The Ulster Bank lunch at Balmoral Show has become a key event in the calendar for senior figures in the agri-food industry,” said Ulster Bank head of Northern Ireland, Richard Donnan.
“What the contributions of David and George have really highlighted is the importance of food sector companies continuing to drive innovation within their businesses.
“Both ABP and Keelings are examples of firms responding positively to consumer trends with new and innovative ideas and initiatives.
“Ulster Bank is strongly committed to continuing to support investment and innovation throughout the food chain and our principal sponsorship of the Balmoral Show helps us communicate that and our active engagement with the sector as a whole.”