Belfast Telegraph

Export Challenge: Northern Ireland firms making a world of difference

From Netherlands to Japan, meet the exporters who are future of Northern Ireland economy

By David Elliott

Northern Ireland-made guitars, beer and kelp are just some of the products soon to be making their way around the world after the winners of a hard-fought export competition were announced.

They are just some of the products which are made by the six companies taking the top spots in the Invest NI/British Airways Export Challenge Competition, one which aims to get both first time and more experienced exporters on the world map.

The firms each win flights and accommodation to an export destination of their choice along with expert help and advice to help them sell into their chosen markets.

The reward follows a tough application process where they had to prove their product's worth and show a well-laid out and targeted export plan.

The winners include a diverse group of companies.

In the first-time exporter category, Hilden Brewery specialises in craft beer which they want to take to Boston in the US; Secure Ring makes an easily fitted door chain which it wants to sell in the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Poland and beyond; Treidliacht wants to target the US and Canada with its humane horn removal product for cattle; and Ocean Veg is heading to Korea with its Rathlin-grown kelp.

In the category for small companies which already have some export experience, Core Systems is heading for Europe with its inmate software system and IBC Trading is taking its top-class guitars to Japan.

British Airways is supplying flights to the winners and Brenda Morgan, partnership manager at the airline in Northern Ireland, handed out the awards at an event in Invest NI headquarters yesterday.

"The standard of entries was just so diverse, so interesting and showed the creativity that's out there in the Northern Ireland market," she said.

"We're delighted to be involved in supplying the flight package and if it does make a difference in helping these companies take a next step into the export market, then the competition has done its job."

Vicky Kells from Invest NI, which is supplying the accommodation and exporting advice to the companies, said she was impressed by the winners.

"We couldn't have hoped for better," she said "The commitment, the enthusiasm and the motivation which the companies have demonstrated was second to none.

"Export is vital to the Northern Ireland economy.

"If we want to grow, we need to sell outside the area and that's what these companies are primed to do."

Winners of the Invest NI/BA Export Challenge will receive:

  •  Free market research conducted by Invest NI for the selected market.
  •  Two return flights to selected market.
  •  Free accommodation for up to four nights while in market for a maximum of two visits.
  •  Support to arrange and execute a market visit schedule.

The exporter accolade winners

Hilden Brewery

Hilden Brewery is Ireland's oldest independent brewery, established in 1981. Hilden Brewery has led the way in reintroducing locally brewed Irish craft beers. The Hilden Brewing Company consists of Hilden Brewery, The Tap Room and Molly's Yard. The company is looking to identify and develop new market opportunities in Canada, Central & Eastern Europe, and Russia. It is based in Lisburn, employs 24 people, and has an annual turnover of £257,000.

Secure Ring Global Ltd

Secure Ring is a unique and innovative door chain which aims to revolutionise the sector. The firm's vision is to establish Secure Ring as the generic brand name for door chains both for retro-fit and at-source fit. Secure Ring is the only Police Preferred door chain on the market, and carries the Secured By Design accreditation as awarded by the Association of Chief Police Officers in the UK. Established in 2012, the company employs two people, and has a first year turnover of £40,000.


This family-run firm has been in the veterinary business since 1860 and provides veterinary services to farms and pet owners in County Down. It also provides contract animal health services to local government. The company is entering a new area of business – pharmaceutical production. The company has developed a product that humanely removes horns from cows, and is keen to market and sell abroad. The company employs eight people, and has an annual turnover of £532k.

Ocean Veg Ltd

Owned by the McFaul family, a fourth generation island fishing family, the company grows, harvests, processes and sells organic kelp to specialist food retailers, distributors and restaurants. The kelp is harvested, sorted, blanched and vacuum-packed at their facility on Rathlin Island and sold ready to use. It is available fresh or frozen. The company is focused on developing exports to China, Japan and Korea. It employs two people, and started trading in 2013.

Experienced (small-sized) Exporter

Core Systems

Core Systems was established in 1994, and is an expert in Identity and Inmate Management solutions for high security facilities. The firms's custody management solutions include biometrics, lock control and Direct2inmate prisoner self-service. The company works in Northern Ireland, the Republic and North America. Future plans include developing an export strategy for the Netherlands. Core Systems employs 20 people with an annual turnover of £1.1m.

IBC Trading Ltd

IBC Trading Ltd was established in 2006 and offers international product design and sourcing, plus sales and marketing consultancy to worldwide distribution channels involved in the musical instrument sector. The company has sourcing experts for OEM/ODM brands that help customers achieve effective sourcing of instruments. The company plans to develop its export sales in Japan. Based in Dundonald, it employs three people, and has an annual turnover of £1m.

Belfast Telegraph