Food and drink
Food and Drink is a £5 billion industry in Northern Ireland and is the region’s largest manufacturer.
Our success is down to our pure, lush countryside, and farmers and producers who are dedicated to traceability and passionate about quality.
It’s a progressive industry based on family farms and fishing businesses, as well as award-winning enterprising producers, focused on original products for customers worldwide.
Food and Drink from Northern Ireland is exported to over 70 countries
Our key selling points include:
Northern Ireland boasts high-quality raw ingredients, state-of-the-art processing facilities and the world-class food security record which major retailers demand. Our award-winning food and drink comes with full traceability from farm to fork. Each step in our supply chain is monitored by our Farm Quality Assurance Scheme and Food Fortress NI – one of the world’s most advanced food safety programmes. When you source food and drink from Northern Ireland, you can be sure of its quality. That’s why Northern Ireland’s food and drink regularly features in global awards for outstanding taste.
Northern Ireland's food and drink regularly features in global awards for outstanding taste with international recognition across 8 subsectors: beef and lamb, dairy, poultry, pork, drinks, fruit & vegetables, bakery and fish.
We are a world leader in traceability and food security. Northern Ireland created APHIS, an electronic cattle tracing database. This database traces animal movement to control disease and enables full supply chain traceability of meat. Our animal feed industry, in partnership with the Institute of Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, has developed the world-leading Food Fortress. Food Fortress is a collaboration of businesses committed to the high standards of safety and security in our food chain.
Our agri-food industry is responsive and adaptive to changing market conditions and economic downturns, with a proven track record for growth, even in challenging economic climates.
Food and Drink from Northern Ireland is enjoyed by customers in top hotels and high-end restaurants in Britain, France, the US, Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai. Large retail chains such as Marks & Spencer, Albert Heijn, Carrefour, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Tesco also stock products from Northern Ireland.
Access to world-class research centres of excellence
Northern Ireland is home to a number of centres of excellence undertaking industrially relevant research and channelling university expertise into the development of sophisticated products and processes to assist the growth of companies in our food and drink sector.
ABP Food GroupABP Food Group is one of Europe’s leading privately owned agribusiness companies. It is the largest beef processor in Ireland and the UK. The company also operates substantial renewable, pet food and protein divisions. ABP Food Group employs over 10,000 people and has 46 manufacturing plants in Ireland, UK, Denmark, Poland, Austria, Holland, France and Spain.
Bushmills Irish Whiskey
Bushmills Irish Whiskey is made at the world's oldest licenced working distillery in Co Antrim, Northern Ireland, on the beautiful North Coast. The original grant to distil was signed in 1608 by King James 1st and there has been distillation on the Northern Ireland site since then. The Bushmills brand portfolio includes five award-winning whiskies: Bushmills Original, Black Bush, Bushmills 10 Year Single Malt, Bushmills 16 Year Single Malt and Bushmills 21 Year Single Malt. In 2017, Red Bush was added to the core range.
Cranswick Plc is a FTSE 250 listed plc and recognised as being one of the best British food companies, supplying the UK’s top retailers, restaurants and food to go chains with a range of products including fresh pork, gourmet sausages, cooked meats, air-dried bacon, sandwiches and savoury pastries as well as continental meats, cheese, olives and antipasti. The Company now serves its customers from sixteen production facilities across the UK including the former Dunbia plant in Ballymena in Co Antrim.
Dale Farm is one of the leading dairy processors in the UK and Ireland and part of the United Dairy Farmers Group, Northern Ireland’s largest dairy co–operative. Dale Farm’s product offering includes an extensive selection of dairy goods – ranging from milk, cheese, butter and yogurts to desserts and ice–cream. The company exports to over 45 countries worldwide.
Dunbia is an established multinational food company operating across multiple sites in the UK. The company prides itself on the relationships it has with its stakeholders and delivers the most efficient and effective supply chain from field to fork.
Finnebrogue Artisan Established by Denis Lynn as a producer of superb venison, the Co. Down-based company has since branched out into other meat products and vegetarian/vegan alternatives. Finnebrogue’s Naked Bacon is the biggest breakfast revolution for a generation. It is the first mass-produced rasher to be made without nitrites, which have been shown to be carcinogenic when used in processed meats. This successful breakthrough in nitrites has seen Naked Bacon become one of the UK’s leading bacon brands.
Irwin’s Bakery is Northern Ireland’s largest independent bakery which specialises in the production and distribution of traditional Irish breads across Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain.
Irwin’s breads currently account for around 85% of all Irish breads sold in Great Britain, spearheaded by the multi–award winning Rankin Selection Irish breads range, which it makes in conjunction with celebrity Irish chef, Paul Rankin.
Karro Food Group
Karro Food Group is one of the UK’s leading pork processors with processing plants across the country – supplying products to leading retailers, foodservice and manufacturing customers. Karro operates from eight sites across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and processes around 45,000 pigs each week for the UK’s major supermarkets and wholesale markets, with full production chain visibility. Karro pork is eaten by millions of consumers every year and is stocked across the country by leading retailers.
In recent years, Linden Foods has developed into a market leader within the Northern Ireland fresh meat processing industry, sourcing and processing top-quality beef and lamb. The company which is part of the Linden Food Group currently services a wide range of retail multiples, their dedicated convenience food manufacturers, the catering and foodservice sectors, and the wider meat packing industry in the UK and Europe. Linden Foods portfolio of products ranges from full primals and retail packs to individual fixed weight portions of steak cuts. From Aberdeen Angus and Extra Matured Beef to Gourmet Style Burgers and Veal (from our own veal procurement scheme.
Mash Direct offers an innovative range of high quality, convenient mashed root vegetable, potato, cabbage and other quality vegetable products with the taste and texture of good homemade food. The range is free from artificial additives, preservatives and colourings, low in salt, 100% gluten free and provide a good source of dietary fibre. Mash Direct products are supplied both chilled and frozen and are suitable for microwave or oven heating.
Moy Park is one of the UK's top 15 food companies, Northern Ireland's largest private sector business and one of Europe's leading poultry producers. With 12 processing and manufacturing units in Northern Ireland, England, France and the Netherlands, the company processes over 280 million birds per year, in addition to producing around 200,000 tons of prepared foods per year.
Willowbrook Foods is a fresh food producer and processing company based on the McCann family farm in Killinchy. The firm creates a variety of products which are exported throughout the UK and Ireland. Over the years Willowbrook Foods have developed their range of products and is now the largest processor of lettuce bags and salads in N. Ireland and Ireland. Willowbrook Foods currently supply to numerous top retail and foodservice companies in the UK and Ireland including Tesco, Iceland, Lidl, Aldi, Spar, Subway, KFC, Dominoes, McDonald’s, Costcutter, Nisa, Booths, Budgens, Musgrave Group and Henderson Group to name a few. At present, the company has just over 220 employees working between the three factories in Northern Ireland.
Video | Northern Ireland Food and Drink: bringing world-class food and drink to your table
- Agri-food is strategically important to the Northern Ireland economy.
- The processing industry is our largest manufacturing industry, accounting for 32% of manufacturing sales, 24% of total manufacturing external sales, and 22% of total manufacturing export sales.
- Food & drink processors employ around 21,000 people
- The sector is also important in supporting the local supply chain, supporting 26,000 farms right across NI.
- Our food & drink sector is locally-focused, making the majority of its sales within the British Isles, which accounts for 89% of sales. Great Britain accounts for 50% of sales, and the United Kingdom for 72% of sales.
- The Republic of Ireland is the sector’s largest export market, accounting for 17% of sales.
- Northern Ireland is a global leader in food safety - Global Food Safety Unit at Queen's University
- Northern Ireland produces 20% of the UK’s beef and 15% of the UK’s dairy.