Our fab food and drink will do you The Power of Good

Local food and drink champion Michele Shirlow is urging shoppers here to buy local especially during the Christmas season.

By Sam Butler
Monday, 29th November 2021, 9:52 am
Updated Monday, 29th November 2021, 10:00 am
Michele Shirlow of Food NI championing local food and drink
Michele Shirlow of Food NI championing local food and drink

chief executive of Food NI, Michele is behind the new Power of Good promotional campaign that showcases the quality, variety and value for money of food and drink produced here especially by smaller artisan companies.

The motivational campaign builds on the huge success of Food NI’s Year of Food and Drink in 2016 which raised the profile substantially of local food and drink and drove sales forward.

“Our new Power of Good campaign has been shaped by us to support agri-food producers here to grow by increasing awareness among local people and especially shoppers of the sustainable, healthy, premium quality and outstandingly tasty produce now readily available in supermarkets, smaller grocers, delis and farm shops across Northern Ireland, ” explains Michele.

The new campaign, launched in time for the festive season, had been developed in partnership with the Northern Ireland Regional Food Programme in the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and will run until next March, she continues

“It’s the type of promotional initiative that we would wish to do for the industry on a more regular basis…. if we had the resources. What we have in mind is a structured and annual initiative along the lines of Love British Food, which does so much to increase sales of local food and drink there including to public sector bodies such as hospitals and schools,” Michele says.

The Food NI chief continues that “buying local is good for individuals as well as the wider community and economy”.

She continues: “The benefits of buying local food and drink are real and significant. Local food is fresher, tastes better and is likely more nutritious.

“It involves fewer food miles, means less waste and supports local business especially smaller enterprises and, of course, our farmers and sustainable agriculture. It boosts economic wellbeing particularly in rural communities.

“And it’s worth remembering that agri-food is our biggest industry and one which generates £5 billion annually to the local economy, providing employment to over 100,000 people. It’s also a major exporter, selling to over 60 countries,” she adds.

Shoppers could also count on the quality and outstanding taste of local produce and the dedication of the people behind the food and drink.

“Our produce is highly regarded in Britain, the Republic of Ireland and other parts of the world. The companies have a host of high profile awards acclaiming their produce and expertise,” she adds.

“Virtually every category of food and drink produced here has won recognition for excellence in Britain. Local whiskey, gin and rum have won acclaim across the world. What we’ve done through Our Food. Power of Good promotion is to create a colourful and striking presentation of the very best of our fabulous and multi-award winning produce.

“In recent weeks for instance, we’ve seen Clandeboye Yoghurt named the best in the UK in the highly influential Quality Food Awards; Craic Foods chosen as Grand Champion in the Great British Food Awards, while Burren Balsamics and Irish Black Butter were also successful; Foyle Foods, Kettyle Irish Foods and Hannan Meats were involved in awards at the World Steak Challenge.

“There’s also been success in various global competitions for McConnell’s Whiskey and Hinch whiskey and gin. Shortcross, the distillery behind a globally recognised gin, has just introduced a single malt whiskey that was named “Best New Whiskey’ in the Irish Whiskey Awards.

“As a community, we really do need to get behind our fabulous food and drink producers, especially smaller enterprises, and help them the grow business faster.

“Our economy needs their enterprise. And it needs the employment they can create,” Michele says.

The new promotional campaign, she continues, “seeks to unite, delight, inspire and educate people and thereby to encourage them to purchase more local food and drink.

“Loving Northern Irish food and drink will have positive benefits for all local producers, retailers, restaurants and the overall economy. It also benefits the drive towards sustainability.”

In addition to promoting retail sales, the campaign showcases the talents of local chefs behind “world class, tasty and original dishes from the best of local ingredients from our farms, seas and local producers”.

“The campaign reflects Food NI’s conviction that food and drink can make an even greater contribution especially as Northern Ireland seeks to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and resultant lockdowns.

“Food and drink is a vibrant and ambitious industry in which producers are focused on excellence, products that merit support. We want more local people: To Source our food and drink. To savour it. Support it. Shop it.

“And, of course, look for it on the menus in local restaurants and cafes,” adds Michele.