Another food and drink initiative from Tourism Northern Ireland – Will all the marketing effort leave a sweet or sour taste?

Another food and drink initiative from Tourism Northern Ireland – Will all the marketing effort leave a sweet or sour taste?
Another food and drink initiative from Tourism Northern Ireland – Will all the marketing effort leave a sweet or sour taste?

In the last week, Tourism NI have unveiled another ‘exciting new’ programme of food and drink experiences as part of ‘Taste the Island’ campaign.

They are going to run a series of ‘special’ events throughout September, October and November, are a celebration of Northern Ireland’s finest food and drink produce.

‘Taste the Island will include more than 150 food and drink experiences across Northern Ireland, supported by a new food and drink focused marketing campaign.’

It is not known where the events will take place, all we know it that they are going to be Exciting, New, Special, Celebrations of food and drink (The PR people hard at work on this one) or how much it will cost.

With Brexit coming we wonder would the money be better spent helping Northern Ireland Food and Drink providers work on their sales and marketing strategies in the event of a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit!

To be fair it is great that food and drink providers get this PR support for their brand awareness, especially the cottage industry providers who must compete with the big global brands. But these events are always a mixed bag no matter what part of the Island you are on and the weather does not help.

Other factors to consider:

  • These publicly funded events make it difficult for private sector event organisers to compete and grow.
  • Do these events promote the big globally owed ‘Irish’ food and drink products?
  • Some of the large food and drink brands get a cheap way to promote their privately-owned companies using the support of public money via some of these events. What economic impact do they have on Northern Ireland’s economy?
  • Some of these types of event are very overpriced – Many of the suppliers charge a lot of money for their produce at these events, using pester power to great effect to help drive up revenue.

Apparently, the latest research (No source) suggests Northern Ireland benefits from ‘visitor expenditure at £968m of which approximately one third, £350m, is spent on food and drink’ – what percentage of the £350m is essential spend (We all got to eat….and drink) and how much is gained via real consumer interest in particular food and drink products – For example, do people travel to Northern Ireland to eat at a particular restaurant ?

Additionally, Tourism NI say: “Food and drink accounts for 30% of the total visitor spend here” Again, we believe this majority of this is essential spend.

To really gage success with this marketing campaign it would be interesting to see who the stakeholders are and see a post event survey of consumer engagement with cottage industry and small food and drink providers afterwards – are these just event sales or is their scope for market development?

We hope these food and drink marketing events focus on the start-up food and drink providers, we hope that they are costed appropriately for providers and visitors, we hope that the public sector bodies like Tourism NI work better with the private sector event organisers to fund and market these events.

For further information about Taste the Island visit or follow #TastetheIsland.


Tourism NI has unveiled ‘Taste the Island’, a three-year initiative developed in partnership with Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland that aims to significantly enhance Northern Ireland’s food and drink reputation.

Pictured at the launch which took place at Life Centre, Belfast, are Failte Ireland’s Tracey Coughlan, Chef Paula McIntyre, Tourism Ireland’s Louise Finnegan and Tourism NI Chief Executive John McGrillen.