Local heroes: The Limerick Food Experience is an exciting addition to Riverfest, which takes place this weekend around the city
FOOD has always played a central part in Limerick's Riverfest with the hugely popular barbecue contest inspiring much light-hearted competition among teams from all over the world.
This year, the festival adds a new attraction with food at its heart, but one that also serves to promote local artisan producers.
Run under the auspices of Innovate Limerick and the Local Enterprise Office, The Limerick Food Experience sets out its stall in the Hunt Museum Garden on Saturday May 5 and Sunday May 6 from 10am to 6pm.
A range of local food producers will have their own pagoda in a market-style setting, which Trish O'Sullivan, food strategy co-ordinator with Innovate Limerick, told The Leader, will help bring their tasty wares to a whole new audience.
“Consumers will have the chance to walk through the garden, they’ll maybe be coming or going from some of the other Riverfest events, and they can buy products like cheese, juices, health bars, lots of delicious items that you would consume at home,” said Trish.
“It will very much be a market-style environment, rather than what will be over in Arthur’s Quay, which will be more your beer and burger service offering.”
The call went out early to local producers, and according to Trish, the response has been excellent. Attyflin estate, Jim O’Brien Cheese, Near to Nature bars and Ballyhoura Apple Farm are just some of those signed up.
“Producers are great to go to their local markets and events, so what is different here is we’re putting them under one umbrella which is the Limerick Food Experience, giving them the support of the local enterprise office and the arts office and the Council, so we’re all able to push it and promote it.”
The idea for such showcases came about as part of the food strategy for Limerick, which the LEO drafted in 2015 and published in 2016 and one of the key actions from the strategy was to run a number of food showcase events.
The Limerick Food Experience was piloted at the Cappamore Show last August and resulted in really good feedback and response from both producers and consumers,” said Tricia.
“I suppose what particularly resonated with me was the consumers were delighted to see so many Limerick producers there, that they hadn't been aware there were so many of them until they came to the show.
“As a result of that, then we are going to do three Limerick Food Experience events this year, starting with Riverfest, then we hope to do it again in Cappamore in August, to bring it to the east of the county and the Newcastle West Show in July.”
The cross promotion and showcasing are all little tributaries, feeing into the goal of a unified Limerick food brand, which Trish states is a longer term ambition of Innovate Limerick and the LEO.
“The ten-year food strategy is until the end of 2018, at which point it will be reviewed and I would think an outcome of that review would be that we’d go to the next stage and develop a brand,” Trish told The Leader.
“In the early days we didn’t want to put a brand on it too soon, we wanted to let it be a more organic process and develop around the people involved.
“It's not all about the food producers either, the brand has to be a fit for the food service industry, the great chefs we have in Limerick, the restaurants and hotels, so you don't want it to be too confining by putting a brand on it immediately, but I would say that’s something that, long term, definitely will happen.
“I work very closely with LEO, who are the authors of the strategy, but it shows there are so many bodies that can work together on the same goal which is trying to promote Limerick food and get it on the map. We really do have some great producers and some great chefs too.”
The Limerick Food Experience will be open both Saturday and Sunday and its central location being only a short distance to the river and Arthur’s Quay should ensure a good audience for our artisan producers. Make sure you don’t miss it.