TheE commitment of local food companies to innovation is being showcased by Invest NI at a major technology conference in the Netherlands.
Invest NI is one of the sponsors of the two-day 7th Annual World Food Technology and Innovation Forum, which opened yesterday in Rotterdam.
The event focuses on new product development and production.
Four Northern Ireland producers — Moy Park, Norbev, Gilfresh and TraceAssured — have been helped by the economic development agency to take part in the event — which is aimed at top executives responsible for research and development, innovation and marketing in the food sector.
“The forum covers many areas of interest to our companies including healthy eating trends, global buying behaviours, personalised nutrition, environmental issues and sustainability, energy efficiency, and opportunities for new products in sectors such as ingredients and markets such as Asia,” said Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI's food director.
“A key focus of the conference is the creation of a world class lean manufacturing plant, implementing lean manufacturing principals and cost reduction throughout the process. These issues all have relevance for our companies,” he said.
Mr Mawhinney said it was essential the province's food industry — the second biggest export industry here — is kept abreast of international trends and developments.
“Food and drink in Northern Ireland is worth around £3bn annually and is a major supplier of beef, poultry, dairy and bread products to Britain, the Republic, other parts of Europe, and increasingly to the US and Middle East. Almost 70% of food and drink products are now sold outside Northern Ireland.
“In addition, we want to ensure that Northern Ireland is seen globally as a source of innovative products in tune with market requirements,” he said.
Invest NI said it is working closely with local food producers in the dairy, meat, drinks, ingredients and consumer foods sectors to enable them to strengthen their competitiveness, increase research and innovative capabilities, and access to international markets.
The conference programme also includes networking opportunities for participating companies, prearranged meetings with senior technical directors of international food companies.
There is also a full day visit to Nizo's research facility in the Netherlands' Food Valley, Europe's largest food grade facility conducting food research and pilot manufacturing.
The World Food Technology and Innovation Forum is a leading global forum designed to bring the R&D, innovation and marketing communities together with manufacturing and processing practitioners.
The organisers say that the objective is to achieve excellence in new product development and production.
Among the hot topics for food manufacturing is energy efficiency planning and cost reduction strategies in food manufacturing. Also the promotion of lean manufacturing.