On Monday April 7th last, the Food Producers of Laois, Longford, Offaly & Westmeath came together in Portlaoise for the Midlands Food Showcase. It was suite of initiatives as a result of an inter-agency collaboration between the Midland Regional Authority, Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland, Laois, Longford, Offaly & Westmeath County Enterprise Boards (Local Enterprise Offices), and Waterways Ireland and Fáilte Ireland under their ‘Lakeland & Inland Waterways’ brand. The event was ably coordinated by Ruth & Sarah in the Midlands Regional Authority and the event took place under the MidlandsIreland.ie brand.
Regional food producers took part in over 50 one to one mentor clinics designed to maximise efficiency and effectiveness in food packaging, finance, marketing, distribution and sales. This was followed by a workshop on ‘Growing Your Food Business in 2014 – Your Business & Digital marketing’ facilitated by internationally renowned digital marketing expert Ms KrishnaDe, which, explored the many benefits to food businesses of embracing free online social media tools such as facebook, twitter and pininterest to name but a few.
With over 300 people in attendance, Ms Ella McSweeney, MC for the formal part of the evening, welcomed Mr Simon Coveney, Minister for Agriculture, Food & Marine who launched the first edition of the MidlandsIreland.ie Regional Producers Directory. The publication contains details of over 100 producers in the region across a number of categories including Bakery; Beverages; Confectionery; Catering Companies, Cookery Schools and Training providers; Dairy; Meats; Organic; Prepared Foods; Preserves and Produce. When the formalities were concluded, the Minister, renowned for his vocal support of Ireland’s indigenous food production sector, visited each of the 44 producers showcasing at the event and sampled the culinary delights on offer. Attendees were also served a range of specially commissioned canapés and beverages comprising regional produce.
Buyers from the hospitality sector, independent stores and those from larger multiples also mingled with the producers on the night, resulting in some very positive engagement in terms of potential sales and supply contracts.
Pat Lalor from Ballard Organic Farm in Kilbeggan shared his experiences with fellow producers from the region and Ms Helen McDaid Head of Food Tourism with Fáilte Ireland highlighted the important role food plays in enhancing ‘the tourist experience’ and developing a sense of taste for a region.
The event was also chosen as a launch pad for a number of exciting new regionally produced products by the Wild Irish Foragers & Preservers, Ballard Organic Farm and a collaboration between An Olivia Chocolate & Bell Lane Coffee.
The showcase featured on RTE Nationwide on Monday, April 14th, 2014 and will be available on RTE Player for a further 2 weeks.