Forty-six food and drink companies racked up a record 195 gold stars for quality products in this year’s UK Great Taste Awards, Alastair Hamilton, Invest Northern Ireland Chief Executive, announced today.
Hannan Meats in Moira also set an all-time record in the awards by winning 26 gold stars, the highest ever won by a single producer.
Among the most successful companies are McCartney’s Butchers, also based in Moira with 14 gold stars and Punjana, Belfast, with nine gold stars for its teabags and loose-leaf teas.
Five companies – Cloughbane Farm Shop, Pomeroy, Hannan Meats, Moira, Kettyle Irish Foods, Lisnaskea, McCartney’s Butchers, also Moira, and Punjana Tea, Belfast – achieved the top award of three stars and will be in the running to be named as Northern Ireland Regional Champion, an award sponsored by Invest NI, and overall Supreme Champion, a title secured last year by McCartney’s Butchers in Moira for its corned beef, a reworking of a traditional British favourite food.
Congratulating the successful companies, Mr Hamilton said: “The awards for quality and innovation just keep coming for our food and drink. The record number of gold stars won last year has been easily surpassed in 2012/13.
“The performance of our companies, both large and small and across most sectors in what has become one of the most important competitions of its type in Europe, is truly outstanding.
“We can justifiably claim to have some of the very best food and drink products available anywhere in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The awards show that our companies have original and richly flavoured products that often exceed what competitors in Britain and Ireland have to offer grocery retailers and, of course, their discerning customers.
“The immensely impressive achievements in this highly regarded annual competition should inspire the award winning companies to grasp the extensive opportunities that Invest NI provides to help them grow their business by increasing sales outside Northern Ireland. We want to assist this strategically important industry, currently worth over £3 billion a year in sales, to drive exports well beyond the current figure of £1.5 billion,” added Mr Hamilton.
The Great Taste Awards, organised by the influential UK Guild of Fine Food, is the UK’s leading food and drink event. This year the competition attracted more than 8,800 entries from companies throughout the UK and Ireland and further afield.
In total, 2,793 food and drink products have been awarded one, two, or three-star gold, with just 123 entries winning three stars.
The annual programme culminates in next month’s ‘Golden Fork’ Awards in London and the naming of the Great Taste Supreme Champion.
Judges during this year’s Great Taste included Masterchef winner and restaurateur Matt Follas, restaurant critic Charles Campion and food writers Lucas Hollweg and Xanthe Clay as well as more than 300 food buyers from leading food halls, delicatessens and farm shops across the country.