Economy Minister Simon Hamilton has congratulated the Northern Ireland Food and Drink companies recognised in the 2016 UK Great Taste Awards, widely recognised to be the Food Oscars.
The Meat Merchant, owned by Peter Hannan, has achieved 36 product awards, a record number of awards for a single food manufacturer in UK and Ireland and in doing so secured a record total of 59 stars.
Thirteen local products from eight companies were awarded the highest accolade of three gold stars for their products in the prestigious annual event organised by the influential UK Guild of Fine Food, with 84 local companies securing almost 303 gold stars in total.
Praising the success of the companies, Minister Hamilton said: “We have a dynamic and progressive food and drink industry and the results of the 2016 UK Great Taste Awards will help to consolidate Northern Ireland’s growing reputation for excellence in food and drink production and hospitality.
“In keeping with our Year of Food and Drink celebration, a record number of local companies submitted produce this year and remarkably 212 products have been duly rewarded with this valuable independent validation of taste and quality.
“Major international retailers and food service organisations watch such high profile competitions for new products and different taste experiences on behalf of their customers.
"My department through Invest Northern Ireland will continue to support our export-focused food producers position themselves for growth particularly in markets outside Northern Ireland.
“I would like to congratulate all of those who have been recognised for their hard work and dedication. In particular the eight gold star award winners, Clandeboye Estate, Suki Teahouse, Dale Farm, Rooney Fish, Kearney Cheese Company, Hannan Meats, Thompson Family Teas and Abernethy Butter.
“The record breaking achievements of Hannan Meats this year is truly impressive and makes the company the most successful UK and Ireland company in the history of this competition. The results in this unique year couldn’t be better and present an important and fitting showcase of the pure natural quality of Northern Ireland Food and Drink.”
138 businesses submitted products to the 2016 Great Taste Awards – the highest number of entries in the history of the awards and 84 of the companies secured awards for their products.
The full list of Northern Ireland winners are available here.