A Taste of Success for IFEX 2018

“With the addition of Meat@IFEX and the World Butchers’ Challenge we had high hopes for this year’s event, however, IFEX 2018 has exceeded all our expectations!” comments Caroline McCusker, Event Director of IFEX.

IFEX 2018 saw over 6500 visitors descend on the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast, making it the biggest turnout for the exhibition to date. With exhibitors reporting that substantial business was done and overwhelmingly positive feedback from visitors and exhibitors alike, IFEX 2018 really did serve up a show that will benefit all of those involved in the months and years ahead.

IFEX Event Manager, Caroline McCusker adds: “We have worked hard on this show for the past two years. Our goal was to make IFEX 2018 as good as it could be and the vibrancy and atmosphere over the three days was incredible."

“In the build-up to the sold-out event, the signs were very positive, and we are thrilled to hear exhibitors are reporting that major deals have been done.”

Exhibitor stands were both impressive and engaging, with IFEX stalwarts, Lynas Foodservice housing an ‘in-stand’ café for both customers and new contacts. Henderson Foodservice brought a ‘local supplier village’ featuring produce from many of its suppliers including a social-enterprise bottled water company from Larne, Clearer Water. In addition, other major stands included impressive areas from B.D Foods, Bunzl McLaughlin, Express Food Service, Hugh Jordan and Stephens Catering Equipment.

Exhibitors’ efforts to showcase their businesses in the best possible manner really added vibrancy to the event and for visitors, they came hungry sampling the food and drink on offer, including the award-winning products that were on display at the Great Taste Market.

IFEX was officially opened on Tuesday 20th March by Multi-Michelin star award-winning chef, Jean Christophe Novelli, who joined Sean Owens, Director of Salon Culinaire on the podium.

Jean-Christophe Novelli praised the quality of local produce on display and also welcomed the large crowds on the first day of the event saying: “Northern Ireland is fast-becoming world-renowned for its hospitality offering, and IFEX plays such a pivotal role in the development of skills and securing future business for the 200 plus exhibitors who participated at the show."

“I was really impressed with the calibre of exhibitors; the chefs, both young and senior taking part in the live competitions, and the overall positive atmosphere at the show.”

Also, on day one was the highly-respected Product of the Show Awards. Taking home the top accolade, Stephens Catering Equipment were awarded Overall Product of the Show for its Kopa 400 Charcoal Oven and BBQ Grill by an independent panel of judges that included Adrian McLaughlin, CEO, Dunluce Hotel.

The judges were looking for all-round excellence among the exhibitors’ products in categories such as catering equipment, food & drink, sustainability and technology.

Adrian McLaughlin, comments: “Stephens Catering Equipment was a very worthy winner. The Charcoal Oven and BBQ Grill stood out for its innovation, design and is a great product with real benefit to the end user.

“All of the finalists’ products were extremely impressive and they’re great examples of the innovative food, drink, retail and hospitality products and solutions that were exhibited at IFEX.”

Lynas Foodservice was awarded Silver with its Causeway Prime Chuck, Shin and Short Rib Patty whilst joint Bronze went to BNE Electronics Ltd and the VanPOS, and Irish Biltong from The Irish Biltong Company.


A hotly-anticipated feature of IFEX 2018 was Salon Culinaire, attended by over 150 student and culinary chefs and many spectators. During the three-day show, rising stars in the industry were identified, new champions in their field were awarded and renowned industry experts were recognised for their contribution to this diverse sector. IFEX 2018 was Northern Ireland’s showcase for local excellence and top awards were given to those who excelled in their fields.

Taking home one of the biggest awards at IFEX was Paul Cunningham from Brunel’s Restaurant, Newcastle, who was named DAERA NI Chef of the Year. Paul competed against five other culinarians to win the top accolade, impressing the judges with his creative flair and inspirational use of ingredients throughout the course of the competition. Thrilled with winning, Paul commented: “IFEX is synonymous as the event where NI’s top chefs first won their medals and to be crowned DAERA Northern Ireland Chef of the Year is incredible.

“It is a huge honour to win and to now be included in the hall of fame alongside such industry heavyweights is a dream come true. Having come second in the competition last year, my goal this year was to go the distance and reach the top spot and I’m thrilled to have achieved this. I was up against some tremendous talent, which makes this victory even more special.”

On presenting Paul with award, Permanent Secretary for the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Denis McMahon, added:
‘’The DAERA Chef of the Year competition highlights the strong links between our farming industry, the culinary environment and our successful agri-food supply chains.

“Chefs here are incredibly fortunate to have such a rich pool of Northern Ireland award-winning producers and artisan food and drink companies on their doorstep. It’s a testament to our agri-food industry that Northern Ireland’s international reputation is continuing to grow. I would like to congratulate each of the six finalists for their creative and talented use of our local products and I wish each of them well in their culinary careers.”

Garreth Wilson, Head Chef at Titanic, Belfast was named runner-up at the event, in which the standards were exceptionally high.

Supported by the Department for the Economy, Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), the Food Standards Agency, as well as Flogas and Stephen’s Catering Equipment, Salon Culinaire was a hotbed of activity. Other notable winners included:
• NI Young Chef of the Year, sponsored by Henderson Foodservice: Mark Winter, Sous Chef at Lough Erne Resort
• Street Food International, sponsored by Department for the Economy: South Eastern Regional College
• Great NI Bake off, sponsored by Andrew Ingredients: Craig Morrow from French Village
• Edible Art Novelty Cake: Ruth Doherty, South Eastern Regional College

With over 200 companies showcasing innovative products and services, visitors had a wealth of new products to see, taste and learn about. With everything from Irish Black Butter to revolutionary new cleaning equipment, IFEX 2018 really did deliver a vast array of products under one roof.

This year IFEX almost doubled its show size with the addition of a sister event - Meat@IFEX, which welcomed over 500 international delegates from across 12 countries, who competed in the World Butchers’ Challenge. Following an outstanding display of butchery skills and creativity, the home nation, Team Ireland, was announced as the best in the world, being crowned as the world’s top butchers. Team Ireland was made up of: Garrett Landers, Team Ireland Captain; Ian McKernaghan, Team Ireland Vic-Captain; Stephen Cooke; Eamon Etherson; Stephen Millar and Colly Donnelly.

The World Butchers’ Challenge aims to showcase skill and innovation in the butchery trade and there was further success for Team Ireland in the Best Pork Product and Best Sausage categories.

As the premier trade event for the food, retail and hospitality industry, IFEX returns in early 2020! Register your interest with the team at Fresh Montgomery via ifexexhibition.co.uk.