A NEW project designed to benefit artisan food companies across six district council areas has been launched in Banbridge.
Over the next two years, 36 small companies from the food sector will receive intensive business development support through the ‘Food To Follow’ scheme which has been financed by Invest N.I. and the European Regional Development Fund.
Speaking at the launch, Chairman of Banbridge District Council, Junior McCrum, said the programme, which falls under the ‘Sustainable Competitiveness Programme’ for Northern Ireland, was an opportunity to assist smaller, specialised local businesses to reach their full potential in the economic downturn.
“The food sector in Northern Ireland is a big success story, and is performing really well against difficult conditions,” said Mr McCrum, “We need to continue to do more to assist smaller, specialised, quality local businesses to develop and market their high quality products both here and in export markets.
“The opportunity for small food businesses to realise their potential is enormous and we aim to help companies develop the right skills and knowledge to their best advantage, and for the long-term benefit of our local economy.”
Invest NI’s Southern Regional Manager, Mark Bleakney, added, “The food sector is one of the most important sectors within our economy. This programme will help local companies to successfully compete for business outside Northern Ireland and focus on the markets which offer the greatest export potential.”
The ‘Food To Follow’ programme is supporting 36 local companies recruited from across the South Eastern Economic Development (SEED ) area and follows on from a previous successful business development programme for small businesses in the food sector.
Led by Down District Council on behalf of SEED Councils, ‘Food to Follow’ will be delivered across the council areas of Banbridge, Ards, Armagh, Craigavon, Down and Newry and Mourne.
The appointed delivery agents, Lestas Consulting, will deliver a programme of seminars, events and business mentoring for food companies in the SEED area and in addition to the 36 core participating companies, 12 larger companies will provide industry-based support to those involved.