More than 70 food and drink producers from all over the country gathered in the Limerick Institute of Technology on Thursday 23rd May to showcase new products to buyers from Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK.

This Meet the Buyer event, organised by the Irish Quality Food Awards, was spearheaded by Eamon Ryan, Head of Enterprise with Local Enterprise Office Limerick. It is the first time so many Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), 25 in total, came together to create a platform to link regional producers with international food buyers.

These buyers included representatives from the multiple sector, foodservice, catering, independent fine food shops, wholesalers, and restaurants and hotel groups.

New producers included Costellos Brewing Company from Kilkenny, Clarke’s Fresh Fruit from Stamullen, Co. Meath, the Lismore Food Company from Waterford, and This is Seaweed from Dun Laoghaire.

As well as sampling, buyers from Dunnes Stores, Lidl, Aldi and Tesco took part in a panel discussion on the different purchasing strategies employed by the multiples when listing a product, what producers should be looking out for when pitching a product and how they can maximise their success rate.

A delegation of buyers from the UK included Dave Truscott, Commercial Director of Cotswold Fayre; Jeremy Jaffe, who works with Wholefoods, Planet Organic and restaurant groups like Natural Kitchen and Le Pain Quotidien; Sukhjit Khera, Commercial Director of Simply Fresh; Ekaterina Avgarska from Thorntons Budgens; David Ridgway; Executive Chef, Smart Catering; and David Steel, Chef Director, Business Development at Bartlett Mitchell.

Pat O’Sullivan, from Limerick-based Masterchefs Catering, said: “we see ourselves as facilitators for artisan producers to build sustainable businesses and we made some valuable contacts at this event and saw products that we will take on-board to enhance our customer offer. We need more showcases like this.”

Helen Lyons of the Irish Quality Food Awards added: “The great reputation of Irish produce was a real draw for buyers from the UK, due in part to the success of these products in the Irish and the UK Quality Food and Drink Awards. Buyers were all looking for innovative, quality new products, from snacking food and food to go items, to healthy and organic producers, to add to their current offerings.”

Oisin Geoghegan, Chair of the Network of Local Enterprise Offices, said: “The retail and foodservice market in Ireland is worth billions of euro to local food and drink producers. And despite Brexit, the UK will remain one of Ireland’s most important trading partners as well. Targeted initiatives, like Meet the Buyer, are hugely important in helping up-and-coming food and drink producers make connections with buyers from across Ireland and the UK and secure sales and job growth for 2019 and beyond.”

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