IFEX – Northern Ireland’s food-service trade expo – is expected to host an extra 500 people from 12 countries next year as it welcomes the World Butchers’ Challenge to the show in March.

The annual trade exhibition is set to showcase and recognise the achievement and excellence of the Irish agri-food sector, with the addition of Meat@IFEX set to double the size of next year’s show.

IFEX and Meat@IFEX are taking place March 20-22 at the Titanic Exhibition Centre.

Collectively, the shows are set to welcome more than 7,000 food-service, retail, hospitality and butchery professionals over the three days.

World Butchers’ Challenge

The Meat@IFEX pavilion will host next year’s World Butchers’ Challenge skills event.

Butchers from across the island will compete as ‘Team Ireland’, and will be pitted against teams from Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Bulgaria, Spain, South Africa, Germany, Greece, Italy, USA and reigning champions France.

Each team will travel with a delegation, many of whom will take part in a five-day study tour of Ireland, visiting some of the island’s best examples of butchery businesses.

The news comes as the Republic of Ireland’s Department of Agriculture prepares to hold its conference ‘Food Wise: Challenge; Ambition; Opportunity’ tomorrow in Croke Park.

£150,000 investment in 2018

IFEX event manager, Caroline McCusker from Fresh Montgomery, said: “IFEX 2016 enjoyed a 22% increase in visitor numbers and IFEX 2018 is laying down the foundations to make next year’s show even bigger.

“As the trade event that really galvanises all of those in the food, drink, retail and hospitality sectors, it is important for us to keep evolving and growing the show.”

Around 200 exhibitors are expected to showcase their goods and services at IFEX over the three days, with exhibitors including some of Northern Ireland’s biggest names in food-service – Stephen’s Catering Equipment, Flogas, Henderson Foodservice, Bunzl, Lynas Foodservice and Hugh Jordan, amongst others.

IFEX 2018 will also partner with The Guild of Fine Food – organisers of the prestigious Great Taste Awards – to showcase the best of Northern Ireland and Ireland’s speciality food and drink products together under one roof.