Foster praises local companies for scooping food ‘Oscars’

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has praised the outstanding achievements of 40 Northern Ireland food and drink companies in this year’s UK Great Taste Awards.

The Minister was speaking following the announcement by the UK Guild of Fine Food that 40 Northern Ireland food and drink companies have secured more than 160 gold awards for 115 products in the prestigious awards, often referred to as the ‘Oscars’ of the food industry.

The awards are promoted and organised locally by Invest Northern Ireland for the Guild of Fine Food. In the 2010 competition 33 Northern Ireland companies won 87 golds and just one ‘3 star’ award.

This year, five local companies secured the top award of three stars: Alfie Murray Family Butchers in Killyleagh; Ann’s Pantry, Larne; Dale Farm Dairies, Cullybackey, Ballymena and Cookstown; Hannan Meats, Moira, and McCartney’s Butchers, Moira. Alfie Murray Family Butchers and Ann’s Pantry, each gained two of the coveted 3 star awards.

One company, Hannan Meats in Moira gained a record 14 awards - one ‘3 star’, six ‘2 star’ and seven ‘1 star’. En Place Foods, Cookstown, an associated company of Hannan Meats, gained three ‘1star’ awards.

Arlene Foster said: “The achievements of local food and drink companies in the 2011 awards are simply stunning. The companies have set a new record in terms of the total gold stars secured and particularly in terms of the number achieving the coveted ‘3 star’ award.

“It’s also the first time ever that six local companies, mostly smaller entrepreneurial businesses across a broad range of sub-sectors, have secured the premier award in this most important and widely respected event for the food industry in the UK and Ireland.

“The awards demonstrate the vibrancy of the local food and drink industry, particularly in terms of new products and, most importantly, the ability of our companies - both large and small and including several recently started enterprises - to compete and win outside Northern Ireland.

“It is also very encouraging that every county in Northern Ireland now has at least one gold star winner. This shows the importance of the food industry to Northern Ireland, especially in predominantly rural communities.

“The lesson for many of the successful companies not currently trading outside Northern Ireland is that they have the potential to develop business in Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland and further afield.

“I would urge the 2011 record breakers to take advantage of Invest Northern Ireland support which can help them to explore the extensive export opportunities available.”

In September, the judging panel will decide the overall UK and regional winners including Northern Ireland. The local ‘3 star’ winners will be considered for both the UK overall and Northern Ireland regional titles.