LOCAL food producers were full of praise for an exciting new initative which aims to help producers develop new business oppoerunities.
More than 20 producers from counties the Southeast met national and international buyers at the first-ever South East Regional Buyer/Producer Networking event in the Lyrath Hotel - a new initiative which will provide a boost to the regions developing agri-food sector.
Helen Finnegan who set up Knockdrinna Cheeses eight years ago was positive about the new venture. “There has been some interest and hopefully there will be some follow up. There are big names here today in the food service who supply into hotels and catring. In the current climate it is good to see events like this as it is an opportunity to put you yourself forward,” she said.
Joy Moore of Oldtown Hill Bakehouse explained that the event ‘gives great access for small producers to the catering industry’.
The producers showcased their food to the buyers, who met them individually to review their product ranges and offer advice on making deals, packaging and presentation. Kilkenny-based firms taking part included Highbank Orchards, Kells Wholemeal, Knockdrinna Farmhouse Cheese and Oldtown Hill Bakehouse.
“It is a great opportunity to get face to face with the buyers,” she said. Bill Mosse of Kells Wholemeal described the event as ‘a very good idea’. “It has opened up the market to us. I am over 20 years in business. This gives us the opportunity to meet some of the catering suppliers and it is a good networking event,” he said.
Among the big buyers with international links attending the event were Sodexo Ireland, Compass Group PLC & Breaks Ireland who between them have a combined annual spend of €100m.
The “Meet the Buyer” event is a Southeast Regional Inter-agency Food Initiative, aimed at developing the agri-food sector in the region in line with the Irish Government’s Food Harvest 20/20strategy. It involves Invest Kilkenny, LEADER Rural Development Programmes, and Enterprise Boards from counties Carlow, Kilkenny, South Tipperary, Waterford City, Waterford County and Wexford.
Labour Deputy Ann Phelan also welcomed the initative: “I believe that by giving a shop window to artisan and small food producers, the creators are building on the successful Savior Kilkenny Food Festival multi-annual project of providing a much-needed boost to indigenous and local food companies who have experienced a fall in sales during the recession.
“It also allows small and medium enterprises to compete for state contracts which were previously dominated by large food suppliers and producers, as smaller companies are often overwhelmed by the procurement process, the Labour TD stated.