Food and drink business support and funding
Where to get advice, funding and skills support for food and drink businesses in Northern Ireland
Advisory support for food and drink businesses
Sources of advice for businesses in the Northern Ireland food and drink industry
Northern Ireland food and drink businesses can get advice from government departments, agencies and trade advisory organisations.
Invest Northern Ireland support for food & drink businesses
Invest NI offers a range of advisory support to businesses in the food and drink sector:
- Food and drink advisers - Invest NI has a dedicated food and tourism team which delivers support to companies in the food and drink industry. Their buynifood.com website details thousands of products from over 300 local food processors. They can also assist with introductions, sampling and menu development.
- Research markets, competitors and partners - the Business Information Centre at Invest NI provides free access to market research. This includes worldwide databases of potential customers and suppliers. The Centre can also supply you with market reports specifically focused on the food and drink industry.
- Food and Drink Consumer Insights Team - delivers a range of initiatives to help Northern Ireland Food and Drink businesses to grow. They do this through using market research, data analysis and consumer insights. To contact the team, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Food Standards Agency (FSA) advice and guidance
The FSA in Northern Ireland offers advice and guidance to food and drink businesses in Northern Ireland. This includes key issues such as food safety, standards, nutrition and dietary health.
Local councils are food law enforcement authorities. They offer advice and guidance on food safety and standards. Find your local council in Northern Ireland.
Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) business support
DAERA provides information and regulatory advice for food businesses on meat inspection, milk products, food imports and eggs packers. From time to time DAERA welcome applications for food-specific support schemes. See funding support for food and drink businesses.
Tourism NI support for food and drink businesses
There are increasing business tourism opportunities within the local food and drink industry. Find out about the support and guidance from Tourism Northern Ireland. You can also find out about the opportunities for growing your business through food tourism opportunities.
Food NI business support
Food NI helps to promote the products and services of its members. It supports them through their Food NI Producer and Taste of Ulster guides. Food NI also highlights local food events.
Northern Ireland Food & Drink Association (NIFDA) business support
NIFDA is a trade association which provides services to develop and support the food and drink industry in Northern Ireland. NIFDA provides information and advisory services, events and networking opportunities. It also provides training and development, and guidance such as food & drink exporters guide (PDF, 3.1MB).
College of Agriculture, Food & Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) business support
CAFRE offers advice and support for the food industry. It has key expertise in food manufacture, innovation, safety, packaging and reducing waste. The college supports the agri-food sector through industry training, knowledge & technology transfer, benchmarking and business development planning.
CAFRE also have food facilities that include:
- Food Technology Centre
- Food Packaging Centre
- Food Innovation Centre
- Food Business Incubation Centre
Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) business support
AFBI offers scientific research and services to commercial organisations. It covers agriculture, animal health, food, environment, biosciences and economics. Find out more about AFBI's specialist advice to the food industry.
University research in Northern Ireland
Queen's University Belfast and the Ulster University both have research facilities:
- Food safety at Queen's University helps local food and drink companies pursue research projects. This includes research in areas such as packaging, shelf-life, waste minimisation and food security to help develop innovative products and target export markets.
- Ulster University's Northern Ireland Centre for Food & Health (NICHE) helps develop novel food products and functional foods. It researches the potential health benefits of foods and food supplements. It also analyses foods' nutritional content, stability and shelf-life.
Food and Drink Federation business support
The Food and Drink Federation offers a business information service to food and drink businesses with industry updates, alongside technical and regulatory support. They also provide events and training for the food and drink industry. Find out about the Food and Drink Federation's support service.
Banking support for food and drink businesses
Some local banks offer bespoke financial services for the food and drink industry, including:
- Ulster Bank food and drink sector expertise
- AIB (NI) agri-food team
- Bank of Ireland food, agri and beverage sector team
Business finance and support finder
The business finance and support finder is a searchable database. It can help you find publicly-funded sources of assistance. Support may be available in a number of forms, including financial assistance and free or subsidised advice services. Search for available support on the business finance and support finder.
Funding support for food and drink businesses
Funding support for food and drink businesses in Northern Ireland
If you are starting or hoping to expand your food and drink business, there are several sources of funding options available.
Invest Northern Ireland funding support
Invest NI offers a range of funding support to food and drink businesses:
- Innovation Vouchers - provides funding of up to £5,000. This can be redeemed against the cost of specialist expertise from universities, colleges and publicly funded research institutes. To see how Innovation Vouchers can help your business see the video case study below.
- R&D funding - if your business is eligible Invest NI could provide up to £50,000 of support. This is to help your food and drink business expand, improve or create new products, services and processes. Find out about R&D support.
- Funding through loans and equity - find out about funding options to help small and medium sized enterprises.
- Propel - includes salary support grants open to companies with high growth and export potential. Find out about the Propel Programme.
- In-market visits - Invest NI has a programme of international trade missions and exhibitions. These can help your business sell your food or drinks products in export markets across the globe.
- Intellectual property (IP) protection - offers financial assistance to help pay for the costs involved in protecting patents, trademarks, design registration and licensing agreements. Find out about protecting your intellectual property.
Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs (DAERA) funding
From time to time DAERA welcomes applications for food specific support schemes such as the Northern Ireland Regional Food Programme.
Find out about all DAERA grants and funding.
Northern Ireland Food & Drink Association (NIFDA)
NIFDA provide a grant finder service focused specifically on the food and drink industry for their members. Find out about becoming a NIFDA member.
Business finance and support finder
The business finance and support finder is a searchable database that can help you find publicly-funded sources of assistance. Support may be available in a number of forms, including financial assistance and free or subsidised advice services. Search for available support on the business finance and support finder.
Skills support for food and drink businesses
Skills support and development for food and drink businesses in Northern Ireland
Developing up-to-date knowledge and skills in your workforce is important to all businesses. It can improve competitiveness and boost your business performance and profitability.
Invest Northern Ireland skills support
Invest NI offers a range of skills development options to local businesses:
- Skills development - available to small businesses that export or plan to export. Financial support is available to those eligible through the Skills Advancement Grant and the Skills Growth Programmes for SMEs and Large Enterprises and/or Foreign Direct Investors. Get training support.
- Leadership and coaching - for businesses intending to sell outside Northern Ireland support through business mentoring, leadership training and coaching. Find out about the Invest NI Leader Programme.
Food and Drink Sector Skills
Food and Drink Sector Skills is an employer-led body which champions the skills agenda on behalf of the Northern Ireland agri-food sector. They provide training courses to help improve the skills within food and drink businesses. Find out about Food and Drink Sector Skills.
National Skills Academy for Food & Drink
Helping businesses in the food and drink sector boost productivity, innovation, profitability and growth by accessing skilled workforce training, vocational study and skill upgrades. Find out about the support from the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink.
Lantra helps local businesses in the food and drink sector access training, qualifications, skills and knowledge. Find out more about Lantra in Northern Ireland.
Funding to employ apprenticeships
The Department for the Economy (DfE) provide funding for employing apprenticeships for food and drink manufacturing. Find out about the finances and funding for apprenticeships.