Foster praises local Great Taste Award winners

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has praised the success of local food companies for investing in new product development.

The Minister congratulated 23 Northern Ireland food companies that gained almost 50 awards, including four highly prestigious ‘triple golds’, in the Great Taste Awards 2009. The Great Taste Awards, considered the UK ‘Oscars’ for the food and drink industry, were awarded earlier this month.

The much coveted awards are organised annually by the Guild of Fine Foods and recognise innovation and quality product development, particularly by smaller companies. Over 60 products were entered by local companies for consideration by a panel of national expert judges drawn together by the influential Guild of Fine Foods.

Congratulating the success of local companies on winning the Great Taste Awards, Arlene Foster said: “What is particularly impressive about the Northern Ireland winners is that the successful companies are drawn from most sectors of the food and drink industry and include both small and large companies.

“The success of the award winners clearly shows how committed our local companies are to innovative food and drink that offers consumers in the UK and further afield different taste experiences.”

The Minister continued: “It is also significant that sectors, which in the past have focused on commodity foods such as red meat and dairy, are now setting themselves apart in highly competitive markets outside Northern Ireland, by developing new consumer products.

“As well as new product ideas, several bakeries, for example, are now winning awards and securing important business by transforming traditional products to be part of the trend - especially in Great Britain - towards tasty, hand-made ethnic products. Northern Ireland has a wealth of quality food and drink that could make a greater impact in international markets.

“I hope that the local award winners will grasp the opportunity that the Great Taste competition provides to explore new business opportunities outside Northern Ireland. Invest Northern Ireland has an extensive programme of trade activities in which companies, particularly smaller businesses, can participate to build worthwhile business abroad.”

There are three levels of Great Taste Awards – single gold, double gold and triple gold, signifying outstanding excellence. The awards cover around 50 categories, ranging from traditional beverages such as tea and coffee, to chocolates, sauces, red meat, poultry and cheese.

The Northern Ireland winners covered most categories and this year included a number of larger companies such as Allied Bakeries in Belfast, Dungannon-based Linden Foods and Punjana, Northern Ireland’s biggest selling tea.

Local companies winning triple gold included: The Offbeat Bottling Company in Bangor, for its Thick Cut Marmalade; Glen Tender in Belfast, for 21-day matured Aberdeen Angus Sirloin Steak; Crossgar Free Range Whole Duck and O’Kane, Ballymena, for Southern Fry Chicken Portions.

Among the smaller companies gaining an award for the first time were Hoy’s Farmhouse Ice Cream in Ballyclare, for Diabetic Vanilla Ice Cream; Tamnagh Bakery, Claudy, for Challah Bread and Gracehill Fine Foods, Ballymena, for black pudding.