Bon appétit: Northern Ireland sandwich and soup firms seduce the French
SANDWICHES from Craigavon and soup from Cookstown will hopefully be tickling the tastebuds of Parisian bon viveurs in a new export drive to France.
Following a successful launch in the German market last month, the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association headed to France this week as part of the next phase of the Access 6 Export Programme in a bid to boost local food and drink exports to the £256bn French retail grocery and foodservice market.
Companies taking part in the French cluster of the initiative include Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil from Limavady, Gourmet Island of Newry, Brunch Box in Belfast, the Big Pot Company from Cookstown and Yellow Door of Craigavon.
France remains the leading continental European market for Irish food and drink exports, and Ireland's most important eurozone trading partner in the sector, with total 2013 food and drink exports estimated at €673m (£553m).
The double digit growth achieved in 2013 saw growth not only in areas of traditional strength, such as lamb and beverages, but significant new business in categories such as mushrooms, snails, bakery, farmhouse cheese and soft drinks.
To mark the launch, an evening reception was held at the Irish Embassy in Paris, hosted by Ambassador of Ireland to France, Rory Montgomery, acting as a showcase for the participating companies and their produce.
Other attendees included potential buyers in the French food and drink sector, senior trade advisors from the British Embassy in Paris and Irish-French business networks. The Access 6 programme is an EU Interreg IVA-funded programme delivered by the Irish Exporters Association, Northern Ireland Food & Drink and Scotland Food & Drink.
The initiative aims to provide 90 SMEs across the three border regions with training and mentorship to successfully supply and trade in a number of foreign markets including the UK, France, Germany, Scandinavia, North America and Benelux.
Mr Montgomery said the French market of 66 million people offered huge opportunities to businesses wishing to export.
"I believe that the food and drink companies are continuing to enjoy a very positive image within France and wish the participating companies luck as they explore new trade relationships here," he said.