Invest Northern Ireland hosted an industry briefing in association with Food Matters Live. Speakers at this event provided insight into how to build a brand identity, how to create and develop a proposition for the multiple retailers and will pass on their experience in how to grow and develop a food and drink businesses. 

Thursday 29th June, 3.00pm - 7.00pm


Presentation downloads:

Joanna Walker, Purple Basil 

James Read,
Giant Peach

John Stapleton, Entrepreneur

Peter McArdle,
Invest NI

John Stapleton, Entrepreneur

John is an entrepreneur, business leader, CEO & Non-Executive Director with over 25 years’ experience in creating and building consumer brands in the FMCG sector in both the UK and the USA. A founder of three start-ups, John is an expert at developing new and innovative consumer-focused products & categories and has wide-ranging experience in operational management and strategic leadership roles. Currently, John actively manages a Non-Executive Director portfolio and consults to the food and beverage industry, providing business advice, guidance, coaching and mentoring to both early-stage and developed growth-phase businesses. John leverages his over 25 years’ experience in starting and growing his businesses to assist other organisations deliver their growth aspirations. 

John co-founded the New Covent Garden Soup Co Ltd in 1987, which pioneered and established the fresh soup category in the UK. In 1998 he moved to San Francisco, where he co-founded Glencoe Inc., bringing the fresh soup concept to the United States. On returning to live in Europe in 2003, John established a consumer food consultancy and has worked with a number of varied clients across the FMCG sector in the UK and central Europe. He has worked with a wide range of companies including both large corporations and numerous start-up and growth-phase businesses. In 2005, John co-founded Little Dish which supplies fresh, natural foods for children over 1 year. Little Dish, which created and established the toddler chilled food category, can be found in all national UK High Street retailers and is the dominant brand in chilled toddler food. John is a graduate of UCD (Industrial Microbiology); Reading University (Food Science); The University of Westminster (Business Administration and Finance) and holds a marketing qualification from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (UK). John lives in Munich, Germany and speaks fluent German.

Joanna Walker, Food Sales & Marketing Consultant, Purple Basil Ltd

Joanna Walker is a food retail expert with experience gained from Buying, Product Development, Marketing as well as National Account Management at companies including Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Netto UK and a Bakery manufacturer. Jo has managed food categories worth over £400m in sales turnover, developed numerous category plans and award winning private label products and led marketing strategies and research plans aimed at delivering profitable growth.

James Read, Founder, Giant Peach

Giant Peach is an ethical digital agency that was founded by James Read in 2005. What initially started as a business in his spare room has organically grown into a successful digital agency with a team of 12 Peaches now based in a converted barn in a fantastic rural setting in the Wiltshire countryside. James is a passionate entrepreneur with a wealth of creative and technical knowledge, he leads his team with respect and unwavering dedication to his vision: to create a cutting-edge creative business with agility and sustainability at it's core.

Giant Peach deliver website projects that generate results, working with brands that already do good things the Giant Peach team use their expertise in all things digital to help their clients make an even bigger difference.

Peter Mc Ardle, Invest Northern Ireland

Peter has worked in Invest NI since its establishment in 2002 and is a Client Manager in its Food and Drink division responsible for managing a team of client executives and the business development of 125 food and drink processing companies with annual turnover ranges from £5m to £200m. As the regional business development agency, Invest NI's role is to grow the local economy by helping new and existing businesses to compete internationally, and by attracting new investment to Northern Ireland. A major part of Peter’s current responsibilities include food sector strategy development.


Peter’s private sector experience includes eleven years in mechanical engineering production management and design consultancy in the electronic and automotive industries. Prior to Invest NI, Peter held senior and managerial posts in the Local Enterprise Development Unit and was responsible for the development of small and medium sized companies in the food processing sector. Peter has served on a number of advisory Boards including the QUB Food Advisory Board, Taste of Ulster, and the Food Business Incubation Centre at CAFRE. He also holds a MBA with distinction, a Certified Diploma in Accounting and Finance, Post Graduate Diploma in Management and a Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing. He is a past Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and has won several business and all Ireland academic awards for excellence and strategy development.

Event Sponsor:

Moy Park, Craigavon, Northern Ireland

Recognised as a leading, growing and innovative food company, Moy Park supplies fresh, high quality locally farmed chicken and complementary convenience food products to leading retailers and foodservice providers throughout Europe and is the industry leading provider of organic, free-range and higher welfare chicken and turkey.

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