The export focus of the five local companies which were successful at last weekend’s Irish Food Awards were praised by Barry McBride, Invest Northern Ireland Director of Business International.
Two local companies gained major category awards in the event, known as Blas na hEireann, that attracted over 2,000 product entries from companies in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Invest NI sponsored the best new product award for the first time.
A total of 18 Northern Ireland companies were shortlisted by the expert judging panel.
Other category sponsors of the event, held as part of the Dingle Food Festival in Co Kerry, included Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia and Bank of Ireland.
The major winners from Northern Ireland were:
Hannan Meats, Moira, for Export Achievement for its highly innovative Guanciale Italian style bacon product, which was also recently named Supreme Champion in the UK Great Taste Awards; and
DJ’s Juices and Ciders, Lisburn, named Supreme Champion in the Cider category for its Tempted! brand strawberry cider.
Other Northern Ireland winners in the 50 categories were:
Fivemiletown Creamery, Tyrone - silver award in the Soft Cheese category for the natural Irish goat’s cheese it supplies SuperValu;
Thompson’s Family Teas (Punjana), Belfast - silver in Teas and Coffees for its Titanic Tea; and
Blackthorn Foods, Belfast - bronze in the Confectionery category for its unique Fudge Fondue dips.
Mr McBride said: “Winning this recognition in the Republic will help the successful companies as they seek to grow business in a market that remains immensely important for our companies.
“The awards raise the profile of these companies and the wider Northern Ireland food industry among buyers in major retailers, independent grocers and foodservice organisations, who monitor such events closely for new product ideas, and, I believe, will lead to worthwhile business there for our companies.
“The recent Great Taste Awards, for instance, is already producing excellent business for winning companies including Hannan Meats which has seen sales of its guanciale grow by a massively impressive 1,000 per cent since the beginning of September.
“This is why we are keen to support such buying opportunities as the UK Great Taste Awards and the Irish Food Awards present. Furthermore, success in such high profile events impacts other industries such as tourism and hospitality because success helps to showcase Northern Ireland as a region offering superb food and drink that combines wholesome flavours, innovation and provenance. It illustrates the heritage of good food that buyers and visitors can count on Northern Ireland to provide.”