A woman who makes Christmas puddings to her great-grandmother’s recipe is hoping to get a taste for international success after winning export orders in Ireland. Worcester-based Ellen Halpin-Barnett, who launched her fourth generation Grandma Lily’s Christmas puddings in July at the Windsor Food Festival, is heading to Chicago later this month on the inaugural Midlands Engine trade mission to the USA and Canada to tempt US buyers after Irish stores snapped up her tasty festive treat.

The Midlands Engine trade mission will be the first time that businesses and organisations from across the entire region will come together as one to promote trade opportunities. And the food producer, who trades under Luxury Hampers and Gifts Ltd and has been working with the Department’s Worcestershire team since January to explore export opportunities, said she was ready to take on the global challenge.

She said: "I’m already stocked in local farm shops and I’m hoping to expand the number of outlets here and I’ve had great success so far at a number of food fairs. Ireland was the natural place to start exporting and I’m delighted that I’ve already attracted a number of outlets but my dream is to sell to the US, where there is a huge Irish population. I have a lot of family in Boston and they believe the product will go down well in the US, which is why the Midlands Engine trade mission appealed to me. I’m very excited by the export opportunities – the sky is the limit.”

Her American dream comes after a string of hotels, farm shops and local stores in County Mayo, Ireland, took orders for her lighter festive puds, which are made to a recipe that originates from the Irish county, where her family are from. The recipe has remained unchanged since her great-grandmother Lily began making it in the 1880s and is a light, fruit filled pudding, flavoured with warm Christmas spices and liberally laced with Irish whiskey.

Halpin-Barnett began to make the puds commercially when her family and friends encouraged her to include them in the luxury hampers she sells online. When she launched the product at the festival in Windsor, she received positive feedback from chefs and patissiers as well as the general public – including those who said they never eat the fruit-heavy Christmas pudding.

Ian Harrison, acting director, Department for International Trade in the Midlands, said: “The Midlands Engine trade mission is the ideal opportunity for businesses across the region to showcase their amazing products and demonstrates that we want to help the smallest of businesses with their exporting plans. It complements our Exporting is GREAT campaign, which is really driving home the message that no matter what business you have, there are international opportunities and we have the expertise to help you win them.”

Taking place from 18th – 22nd September, 2016, and drawing from the Midlands Engine’s strong manufacturing and engineering base, the visit will focus on three separate sector – automotive, manufacturing and aerospace, and food and drink – specifically focusing on the  Chicago and Toronto markets. The programme involves sessions with UPS, a tour of Wrigley’s Innovation Campus, Tate & Lyle’s Commercial and Food Innovation Centre and a reception for the Midlands Engine delegation with potential US partners, buyers and investors.

The Midlands Engine region is home to more than 11.5 million people and makes a £222 billion annual contribution to the UK economy, boasting many globally significant employers and a strong manufacturing and engineering base, as well as growing sectors such as creative, life science and green technologies. It plans to generate an additional £34 billion for the Midlands economy over the next 15 years and to create 300,000 jobs.