A record number of entries have been lodged by local artisan food and drink companies for this year’s UK Great Taste Awards. A total of 627 products have been entered in the UK Guild of Fine Food’s prestigious event – up a record 29 per cent on the previous year.
Announcing the entries from Northern Ireland, Dr Vicky Kell, Invest Northern Ireland’s Trade Director, said: “The remarkable growth in interest in the awards has clearly been stimulated by the achievements of many local companies in what is the UK’s most important food event over the past few years.
“Entries have grown rapidly from just 51 in 2008 to over 600 for the forthcoming competition. This means entries from Northern Ireland have increased over 10 fold since 2008.
“In 2012/13, a total of 47 companies gained almost 200 gold stars including five at three-star level. Northern Ireland companies, McCartney Butchers and Hannan Meats, both from Moira, gained the overall Supreme Champion Award in successive years, showcasing the outstanding taste and quality of our food.”
Invest NI sponsors the Northern Ireland Regional Champion Award.
McCartney’s was successful with a new twist on an old favourite, corned beef, while Hannan, a catering butcher, came out ahead of competitors with guanciale, an Italian style pig jowl. Hannan also gained a record 26 gold stars for a range of meat products in 2012/13.
The entries from Northern Ireland are being judged at the Dorset headquarters of the UK Guild of Fine Food by a panel which represents some of the most experienced and demanding palates from Ireland and the UK, including nationally acclaimed restaurant critics, award-winning chefs, food writers, journalists and restaurateurs, food retailers and buyers.
They will list the top 50 British foods. In last year’s Top 50 Northern Ireland had five entries listed – Hannan Meats, McCartney’s Butchers, Kettyle Irish Meats, Fermanagh, Cloughbane Farm Shop, Tyrone, and Thompson’s Titanic Tea, Belfast.
The top foods will then be awarded Great Taste stars – the ultimate accolade in the world of speciality food – with those bestowed 3-stars judged again in July in London.
"The Great Taste Supreme Champion, the overall winning product each year, has for the last two years been a product made in Northern Ireland and so our expectations are very high before we even start judging,” says John Farrand, organiser of the Great Taste Award scheme.
Since 1994, Great Taste has been organised by The Guild of Fine Food and over the last 19 years more than 70,000 products have been blind-tasted by judges including top restaurateurs, chefs, food critics, fine food retailers, buyers and cookery writers.
The announcement of the Supreme Champion 2013, sponsored by Harrods, will be made on the 9th September.