On the hunt for NI locavores at Balmoral

LYNSEY RI Farm
LEFT: Dr Lynsey Hollywood, Agri-food Business Development Centre Manager in Department of Hospitality & Tourism Mgmt at Ulster University Picture: Mal McCann

UPON hearing the term locavore one might conjure up the image of some sort of large prehistoric beast with thick leathery skin and teeth like daggers but simply put a locavore is a term used for a person that loves to buy and eat local food!

And there is no better place than Balmoral Show for locavores to congregate and share in their support for our region’s fantastic food and drink offering. So, why buy local food and drink?

Over the years I have undertaken a range of research studies relating to the purchase of local food and drink.

Frequently cited reasons for buying local food included freshness and quality, with consumers often associating these credentials to mean the produce is tastier and healthier.

Buying local means a reduction in the number of miles your food has to travel and benefits the environment, making it an attractive option for those consumers wishing to live an eco-friendly lifestyle.

For other consumers, they liked the fact that being familiar with the local area in which the food is produced or grown meant they trusted it and believed it to be safer to eat.

Yet the resounding consensus throughout my research is that consumers often choose to buy local food to support their local economy.

In Northern Ireland, consumer sentiment for local food remains strong, generating a feeling of patriotism and a sense of pride for our country – and rightly so as recently, thanks to Food NI, we were voted the “World’s Best Food Destination” at the Travel and Tourism Awards in London.

Our interest in local food continues to grow and we are willing to pay more for products that are locally sourced (39 per cent of NI consumers) (Mintel, 2018).

One report revealed that 82 per cent of Northern Ireland consumers wanted to see more locally sourced products in their local supermarkets (Mintel, 2018).

For this reason many retailers have recognised the importance of provenance within the products they choose to source and develop.

In 2015 local retailer Henderson Group launched its own-brand ‘Enjoy Local’ range promoting on its packaging where their products are made, baked, bottled, boxed or farmed.

Over the past four years each one of these products has undergone rigorous testing within our Ulster University Business School’s Food and Consumer Sensory Testing Suite (FACTS) and if approved by our panel of locals it is awarded a “Taste Tester” seal of approval.

Sensory expert and Director of FACTS, Dr Amy Burns says that “working with Spar NI to establish Taste Tester Approved products provides consumers with

the reassurance that they are purchasing a high quality local product”.

She said that last year at Balmoral they recruited over 200

taste testers for the Spar NI con-sumer panel and is hoping for the same uptake this year at the show.

Dr Burns said: “This year Spar NI and FarmWeek will be joining forces to bring sensory testing to the masses! At the Spar NI stand you can discover how your senses can impact on your experience of food while at the FarmWeek stand we will be testing your local food knowledge and putting some adventurous flavour combinations to the test.”

So, whether you consider yourself a fervent foodie or just a curious spectator come visit us at the FarmWeek and the Spar NI stand to find out if you make the cut as an ardent locavore!

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