Picture by Parkway Photography
Pictured is Artie Clifford, Blas na hEireann, with Himanshu Sabarwal, Chef at Titanic Belfast, and Invest NI’s Shane McArdle.
Invest Northern Ireland is backing Ireland’s top food and drink awards as part of its support for local companies to increase business in the Republic.
Invest NI is sponsoring the New Products (Best New Product) category in the prestigious Blas na hEireann, Irish Food Awards 2012.
Support for the awards was announced by Barry McBride, Director of International Business, Invest NI, and welcomed by Artie Clifford, Blas na hEireann Chairman.
Mr McBride said: “Our support for the Irish Food Awards is an important development in our drive to assist our food companies to grow sales outside Northern Ireland by showcasing the quality, innovation and provenance of our products. By backing the awards we aim to offer local companies an opportunity to raise their profile in the Republic, which remains the biggest market for Northern Ireland food and drink outside the UK.
“This sponsorship builds on our existing support for the UK Guild of Fine Food’s Great Taste Awards, which is providing extremely successful for our food and drink processors. In the 2012/13 Great Taste Awards, for example, our companies gained almost 200 gold awards, an all-time record for Northern Ireland.
“We are confident that Northern Ireland companies will achieve the same level of success in the Irish Food Awards. Encouragingly, almost 60 Northern Ireland companies have responded to approaches from us and entered products.
“Our decision to sponsor the New Product category will also show the innovation which is becoming increasingly important to the food industry here and which was strongly demonstrated in the recent UK Great Taste Awards,” he added.
Mr Clifford, Blas na hEireann Chairman welcome Invest NI’s support saying: “We were delighted when Invest NI approached us to sponsor one of the categories in the awards, now in their fifth year. The awards are now recognised as the benchmark for the best quality food available on the island of Ireland.
“Successful companies in previous awards tell us that taking part helped them to reach a wider audience and led to additional sales. The awards, which attract significant media interest, are now seen as a showcase of excellence in food and drink.
“Finalists are also able to meet buyers from leading retailers during a networking event as an integral part of the awards.”
The awards were open to all food and drink companies in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Products are then tasted by over 60 judges, in two tranches, resulting in the winning products being awarded gold, silver and bronze medals in more than 40 categories. The winners will be announced at a presentation during the popular Dingle Food Festival over the weekend of 5-7 October.
Other sponsors of the annual awards include Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (Irish Sea Fisheries Board), Allied Irish Bank and the Love Irish Food organisation.
The awards involve the biggest blind tasting of produce in the country, and the criteria on which the product is judged as well as the judging system itself was created by the food experts at University College Cork.
The Blas na hEireann Awards is a not-for profit organisation, and was created by a group of Irish producers, so that quality benchmarks could be established for produce on a level playing field.
For more information about the awards, see www.irishfoodawards.com.