Record-breaking footfall ‘served up’ at IFEX 2024

Record-breaking footfall ‘served up’ at IFEX 2024
First Minister, Michelle O’Neill, and deputy First Minister, Emma Little Pengelly, attended Day Two of the event, and are pictured with Sean Owens, Salon Culinaire Director, IFEX.

IFEX 2024, Northern Ireland’s premier food, drink, retail and hospitality trade event, saw a record attendance of 7,252 visitors descending upon the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast from 5th to 7th March.

With visitor figures up 22% on the previous show in 2022, exhibitors reporting that substantial business was done and overwhelmingly positive feedback from visitors and exhibitors alike, IFEX 2024 really did serve up a show that will benefit all those involved in the sector in the months and years ahead.

As an industry that has faced numerous challenges in recent years including the COVID-19 pandemic, staff shortages and increasing costs, the return of IFEX was welcomed from across the industry. Strong visitor numbers across the three days indicates that in an increasingly digitalised world, opportunities to meet face-to-face are still appealing.

The event had significant sponsorship from the Department of the Economy, (DfE), the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), Stephens Catering Equipment and Flogas as well as association support form Hospitality Ulster, Retail NI, Hotels Federation NI, FSBNI, the Guild of Fine Food, Restaurants Association of Ireland, Chef Network and NI Takeaway Association.

Just some of the crowds that descended on IFEX 2024, which took place at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast.


Toby Wand, Managing Director of 365 Events, organisers of IFEX, said: “With stellar industry support and a sold-out show, we had high hopes for the event, however IFEX 2024 has vastly exceeded all expectations welcoming a huge number of visitors over the three days – more than we have ever experienced before in previous years.

“Our industry has faced several years of uncertainty and unprecedented challenges of late and IFEX has provided a much-needed opportunity for sector representatives to meet face-to-face and plan for the future. With approximately 200 exhibitors and a wide range of features – including a number of new attractions – IFEX 2024 has delivered a show packed full of innovation and new ideas for the industry.

“On behalf of everyone at IFEX, we are incredibly thankful to the committed exhibitors and visitors who attended the show, demonstrating their support for the industry.”

Expanding its floorplan by an additional 40% this year, exhibitor stands were both impressive and engaging with IFEX stalwarts Sysco and Henderson Foodservice showcasing produce from many of their suppliers. In addition, other major stands included impressive areas from Hugh Jordan and Stephens Catering Equipment.


One of the impressive edible art exhibits at IFEX 2024.

Exhibitors’ efforts to showcase their business in the best possible manner added to the vibrancy of the event and for visitors, they got to sample the food and drink on offer, including the award-winning products that were on display at the Great Taste Market and the IFEX bar.

There was a range of new features at this year’s event including the Masters Arena, which shone a spotlight on coffee, bakery and butchery across the three days, the Spotlight Stage where industry experts shared their views on an array of topics and the IFEX Coffee Festival which hosted the SCA Ireland Cup Tasters Championship and many other competitions.

Emphasising the importance of the sector to the wider Northern Ireland business economy, IFEX 2024 was also visited by Minister for the Economy, Conor Murphy, First Minister, Michelle O’Neill and Deputy First Minister, Emma Little-Pengelly, who toured the show and spoke with a number of exhibitors.

First-time exhibitor at IFEX, Adrian McLaughlin, Director of Outwalker Whiskey, said: “IFEX 2024 was a fantastic show for our business. We have made a lot of good contacts and have further raised the profile of Outwalker Whiskey which will hopefully help to propel it to the next level.

“We were delighted with the number of people who stopped by the IFEX Bar to taste and find out more about our premium product – it was a great success.

“Outwalker by its nature is adventurous, bold, free-spirited and somewhat unconventional and we’re confident that it will be a favourite Irish whiskey for many years to come.”

Pictured on the opening day of IFEX 2024 are (from left) Sean Owens, Salon Culinaire Belfast Director, Simon Hudson, Sysco chef and Dylan McGrath, chef and restauranteur who opened the event.


Also, during the exhibition, rising stars in the industry were identified, new champions in their field were awarded and renowned industry experts were recognised for their contribution to the sector. IFEX 2024 was Northern Ireland’s showcase for local excellence and across the three days, top awards were presented to those who excelled in their fields.

Taking home one of the biggest awards was Ben Armstrong, a chef at Old Barn Catering in Markethill who was crowned Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Northern Ireland Chef of the Year.

Also presented with certificates were the winners of the IFEX Innovation Awards. Designed to highlight and recognise outstanding products that have been created since the last event, industry winners included:

  • Best Food and Drink product – Outwalker Whiskey
  • Best Equipment, Design, Technology product – Ecobia for their Biodigester range

With almost 200 exhibitors 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 cleaning equipment and state-of-the-art hospitality robots, IFEX 2024 delivered a plethora of products all under one roof.

As the premier trade event for the food, retail, drink and hospitality industry, IFEX returns to the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast in March 2026. Register your interest with the team at 365 Events via the website: or contact Lyndsey Harker, Head of Sales by emailing: