Invest NI companies score in great taste awards

Eleven Invest Northern Ireland food companies have won 20 gold awards in the Great Taste Awards 2007, the United Kingdom’s most prestigious annual event for food companies. The awards will be presented during the Speciality and Fine Food Fair in London on 3 September.

The top awards for outstanding quality and taste were won by local companies offering a comprehensive range of foods including teas, coffee, gourmet chocolates, cheese, breads, poultry, fish, prepared potatoes and vegetables, marmalade and ale. They were selected from among 4,500 foods submitted by producers from throughout the British Isles and other parts of Europe in the competition organised by the influential Guild of Fine Food.

The Great Taste Awards are the UK’s largest independent evaluation of fine food and drink.

The products were all blind tasted by a team of over 400 experts over a week-long period in London and at the Guild’s kitchens in Somerset. Some of the Northern Ireland products will also be included on the menu at the gala presentation dinner in the Royal Garden Hotel, London on 3 September. The menu for 350 food writers, chefs, producers and top retailers is being prepared by chef Steve Munkley.

Congratulating the local winners, Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI’s Director of Food, said: “These awards are an excellent endorsement of the originality and superb quality of food produced in Northern Ireland. It’s immensely encouraging to see our companies, mostly smaller enterprises, achieving recognition and sales in key markets outside Northern Ireland.

“Smaller food companies are now benefiting from the longstanding expertise, experience and knowledge which exists within Invest NI in essential business growth areas such as innovation and external marketing. We are working to help companies quickly seize opportunities resulting from overseas trends, such as the growing demand for natural and wholesome foods which are also rich in flavour.”

The gold awards are arranged in three starred categories with the top award being a three star gold.  One Northern Ireland company gained a three star rating – Drumgooland Smokehouse, Castlewellan, an artisan smokehouse owned by Mrs Suzanne Smyth and specialising in poultry and fish products. The Offbeat Bottling Company in Bangor, a processor of marmalades and chutney, gained a two-star gold category award.

Among the most successful companies were Mash Direct, the Comber-based processor of potatoes and vegetables, which gained five golds and Genesis in Magherafelt, which won three golds for its wheaten and sourdough breads.

The Great Taste Awards are now in their 14th year and has gained widespread recognition among the country’s retailers and consumers as the benchmark for fine food in the UK. The Awards are also an accreditation scheme. Products bearing the logo have been independently proven to be of originality, quality and excellence.