Businesses invited to re-launch of Mid and East Antrim Food and Drink Network

Businesses are being offered the opportunity to help shape the new Mid and East Antrim Food and Drink Network.

Food and drink producers are invited to the launch (via Zoom) of the initiative on Wednesday, January 19 at 10.30am.

The re-establishment of a network for the sector was identified as part of an agri-food study commissioned by the borough council in June 2019.

Since the study, council has invested in a suite of supports specifically designed and focused on supporting the sector. These include:

The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor William McCaughey, with Adrian Morrow, estate manager of Glenarm Castle.

SPROUT, a tailored start-up mentoring programme to support innovative agri-food business idea;

The Agri-food Demonstrator Pilot Grant Scheme, which enables eligible businesses in the agri-food sector within the borough to access financial support for small scale demonstrator projects;

The Food and Drink Accelerator Programme, delivered in partnership with Dumfries & Galloway Council, which aims to provide intensive acceleration support and provide businesses with the opportunity to gain the skills, capabilities, learn from peers and support to scale rapidly and sustainably.

Council also provides support to enable producers to exhibit and meet buyers at key events such as the Balmoral Show.

Birnie Consultancy has been tasked with the role of lead facilitator of the network for the next six months with the aim of working with food and drink producers to deliver an industry-led action plan.

The Mayor, Councillor William McCaughey, said: “The re-establishment of a Food and Drink Network in the borough provides a great platform for local businesses to engage with each other, collaborate to face challenges or identify new opportunities to strengthen their businesses and indeed the sector as a whole within the borough.

“The network recognises need for businesses to be innovative and competitive to remain sustainable, which has been reinforced by the Covid-19 pandemic and additionally the new challenges such as climate change and energy costs affecting businesses.

“The network can provide an opportunity for the sector to work together to tackle these challenges, harness existing capabilities and excellence in quality food and drink production whilst looking to embrace new skills, new market opportunities, new levels of innovation, in order to futureproof and strengthen the sector moving forward.

“I would urge food and drink producers throughout the borough to get involved by attending the network launch event and to play your part in shaping the future direction of the network.”

As well as providing an opportunity for businesses to introduce themselves, the launch event will include an insight from Santina Kennedy, who is a specialist at Powerscourt Distillery and also the co-ordinator of Wicklow Naturally - a successful food and drink network.

Endorsing the network Adrian Morrow, estate manager at Glenarm Castle, said: “Mid and East Antrim is home to some of the finest food and drink producers and retailers, I myself benefitted greatly from the network initiatives in previous years, helping us develop aspects of the business, so I’m delighted to support the re-launch of Mid and East Antrim Food and Drink Network.

“This will allow this sector to work together to develop and showcase amazing produce from our rich agricultural land and coast.”

If you require further details on the initiative or have any queries, contact Mary O’Boyle, economic development officer, on email: [email protected]

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