This is my first trip to Northern Ireland but am fairly sure it won’t be my last! I’m here on a short four day press trip with a busy itinerary with a heavy focus on food and drink. As an added bonus there’s even a bit of time to explore Belfast and the surrounding countryside. And, as you might expect there’s plenty of opportunity to eat and drink some of the fabulous locally produced produce. We even managed to fit in a Specialty Coffee tour!
Food and drink is a big deal in Northern Ireland, not just in terms of quality, traceability and taste. Food and drink is a £5 billion industry and is the region’s largest manufacturer and a leading exporter, employing over 100,000 people.
Visit Northern Ireland and you are in for a culinary treat! The majority of the food that we tasted on the trip was locally produced and you’ll be pleased to hear that you can get hold of some of it here in Dubai too! Over 70% of Northern Irish produce is exported outside of Northern Ireland and here in Dubai you can find it in some of our supermarkets and restaurants. If you visit, you’ll also no doubt bring some back with you too!
Read out some of the suppliers I met during the trip HERE.
IFEX NI is Northern Ireland’s premier food, drink, retail and hospitality event a trade event. It’s similar to Gulf Food but a lot smaller which means it’s easier to navigate around and to spend time talking to the vendors.
Some of the IFEX Exhibitors who I got to chat to :
Suki Tea ~ Belfast based Loose leaf tea company, established 2005, Ethically sourcing and blending award winning loose leaf teas, herbal infusions and fruit blends from all over the world.
Thompson’s Tea ~ Fourth generation, family-owned company estalished over one hundred and twenty years ago blending and packaging award winning tea in Belfast.
Irish Black Butter ~ launched at IFEX, and not actually butter, this is a compote made of Armagh Bramley apples, cider, brand, treacle and a blend of spices. Used in sweet and savoury dishes, the Black Butter was served it with award winning double cream vanilla from Morelli’s
Abernethy Butter ~ award winning butter made by hand using traditional methods. We kept coming across their butter during our stay.
Morelli’s ~ A family business started in 1911 using a family recipe for home-made ice cream. The original founders, left Italy to find work and settled in London and Northern Ireland. Since then the business has expanded and is now in it’s fourth generation with Northern Ireland branch of the Morelli family concentrating on Morelli’s across Ireland whilst the English branch have expanded the brand to London, Dubai, and Monte Carlo.
Tayto ~ A family business, Tayto is a brand of Tayto crisps and snacks famed for being a ‘childhood staple’. There’s even a Tayto Castle in Tandragee, which you can visit, with a closely guarded room where the unique Tayto Cheese & Onion flavour is made to the same recipe as it has for the last 60 years.
O’Doherty’s Bacon & Black Pudding ~ the O’Doherty family rear rare breed pigs on a small island in Lough Erne where they roam free. Their bacon is cured naturally without phosphates or water. We had met Fintan O’Doherty at dinner the night before.
Whilst browsing around IFEX, I managed to get hold of two award winning meat producers from North and South Ireland for a quick interview. Peter Hannan of Hannan Meats and Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers, two multiple award winning meat producers and butchers (one from the North and one from the South) were more than happy to take part in a quick ad-hoc interview talking about meat trends and customer demand plus the use (or not) of social media in their businesses.
Clearer is a naturally filtered pure Irish Water, from an aquifer deep beneath the North East Coast of Ireland. 100% of their profits are split between creating jobs for disadvantaged local people in Northern Ireland, and funding clean water projects, so that people in developing countries can have great water too.
You can trace every bottle back to who packed, filled and checked it, its pH, weather conditions and what else was happening at Clearer at that time.
Check out the short interview here
Suki Tea – brewing Nepalese Ruby vine tea – picked by Bushan
Awards and Provenance for Northern Irish Food
Much of the food that we came across on our trip is ‘award winning’ and on tasting the food it’s not hard to understand why. Northern Ireland’s food and drink regularly features in global awards for outstanding taste including the UK Great Taste Awards, the World Cheese Awards, the International Wine and Spirit Competition Awards and the Blas na hÉireann, Irish Food and Drink Awards.
- Great Taste Awards 2017 Northern Ireland scooped 244 Gold Stars in the 2017 UK Great Taste Awards with 9 local products getting the highest accoldate of three gold stars.
- Blas na hÉireann, Irish Food and Drink Awards. ~ We met Arti Clifford, Chairperson of the awards at IFEX. Now in it’s 11th year, Blas na hEireann, The Irish Food Awards is the biggest competition for quality Irish produce on the island of Ireland and takes place on 5th and 6th October this year.
For More Information on Northern Irish Food and Drink check out :
[Images : All images, unless stated taken by Debbie Rogers]
Disclosure: I was a guest of Invest NI on this press trip. All of the information in the above article was written by me and is based on my own opinions and personal experience.
Invest NI “Our role is to grow the economy by helping new and existing businesses to compete internationally, and by attracting new investment to Northern Ireland”