‘The future is bright for our local food and drink businesses’

Celebrating the success of the council's Food & Drink Programme are (l-r) Alice McIlhagga, Brambleberry Jams; Councillor Uel Mackin, Chairman of the council's Development Committee; Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Deirdre Fitzpatrick Associates and Barbara Hughes, Hughes Craft Distillery.
Celebrating the success of the council's Food & Drink Programme are (l-r) Alice McIlhagga, Brambleberry Jams; Councillor Uel Mackin, Chairman of the council's Development Committee; Deirdre Fitzpatrick, Deirdre Fitzpatrick Associates and Barbara Hughes, Hughes Craft Distillery.

Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council’s recently completed Food & Drink Business Mentoring Programme for local producers has been hailed “a resounding success.”

There is a strong history of local food and drink producers exporting their products, from Hilden Brewery to Hannan Meats. So with such high-profile successful case studies, the council wanted to offer mentoring opportunities to other smaller local food and drink producers.

Councillor Uel Mackin, Chairman of the council’s Development Committee, explained: “This programme, designed to be run in parallel with Tourism NI’s Year of Food & Drink, has been a resounding success. It has enabled 11 local food and drink businesses to avail of invaluable mentoring support to help them grow their businesses, develop their export potential, strengthen their supply chain and improve their marketing techniques.

“The council identified a number of avenues including trade and retail fairs for these companies to showcase their products, together with providing them support to enter new markets. We were able to tie in with other events being delivered through the 2016 Year of Food & Drink such as the Moira Food Fair, the Christmas Markets in Belfast and the recent Hillsborough Farmers’ Market.

“Across Northern Ireland there is an exponential growth being seen within the agri-food sector and Lisburn and Castlereagh is no different. Several of the businesses that took part in this programme have diversified from traditional farming and are now excelling in their new field of production.”

The Food & Drink Business Mentoring Programme was delivered on behalf of the council by Deirdre Fitzpatrick & Associates.

“This council-funded programme has really helped local food and drink businesses. Some of the successes to date include: new job creation, increased sales, ability to enter new export markets, and new product development,” Deirdre commented. “We are really pleased with the level of growth that has been achieved, and the future is bright for our local food and drink businesses.”

Two of the local businesses that participated in the programme are Hughes Craft Distillery and Brambleberry Jams.

Based in Lisburn, Hughes Craft Distillery has developed a distinctive brand of spirits, and sales have grown considerably, with several new accounts opened recently, including new export customers.

Barbara Hughes, Managing Partner, said: “We have really enjoyed the support we got through this programme. It helped us put in place robust HR procedures, and employ a new member of staff to help boost sales of our RubyBlue liqueur and vodka product range.”

Brambleberry Jams, based in Lower Ballinderry, is now stocked in several local shops such as Igloo, Indie Fude, Cafe Vic-Ryn and Cafe Nosh.

Brambleberry Jams has collaborated with a local ice-cream producer and is providing their renowned salted caramel sauce for use in ice-cream.

Alice McIlhagger, owner of Brambleberry Jams, explained: “Through this programme we had opportunities to collaborate and work with other businesses, to participate in retail fairs, and this gave me the confidence to grow my business and product ranges.”