Craigavon family run firm wins medals in the annual Free from Awards

Gold and bronze medals in a prestigious UK food awards enhance the profile of Northern Ireland’s Forest Feast.

Saturday, 5th June 2021, 5:00 pm
Updated Monday, 7th June 2021, 10:51 am
Bronagh Clarke, marketing director of Forest Feast in Craigavon

A leader in healthy dried fruits and nuts, the family business, which is based at Craigavon, struck gold in the Breakfast category in the influential annual Free from Awards.

The company, which operates from ‘a state-of-the-art’ production plant, among the most modern in UK food processing, won the important award for its unique Raspberry, Pecan and Apple Topper, which the expert judges described as offering “excellent contrast between sweet and tart flavours”.

In addition, Forest Feast was awarded a bronze in Savoury Snack and Crackers category for another original snack – Roasted Nut Mix with Sea Salt and Crushed Black Pepper. The high profile awards for these products follow a recent major breakthrough in Britain for Forest Feast with a deal to supply around 500 Sainsbury’s stores with its luxury nut-based snacks, its biggest retail deal to date for these recently launched products.

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The luxury nut products that are now featuring in almost 500 Sainsbury’s stores throughout the UK

Marketing director Bronagh Clarke is understandably delighted with the recent successes in what is the company’s most important market outside Northern Ireland

“The awards in the Free from competition are immensely important because they will increase awareness of our products and the company in the UK,” says Bronagh. “Breakfast cereals, for instance, is a £2 billion market in which a growing number of consumers are seeking healthy toppings for porridge and other cereals. We developed Toppers specifically in response to this opportunity. They are made from a wide range of healthy dried fruits and nuts.”

In addition to their use with breakfast cereals, Toppers can be sprinkled onto salads and soups and used as baking ingredients, providing a naturally healthy boost, adds Bronagh

“The Free from event is important because it celebrates the UK’s very best in free from food and drink. Our products were among 600 sampled by expert judges this year, reflecting the strengthening focus among consumers on healthier options, especially among those suffering from allergies,” she continues.

Featuring over a hundred chefs, manufacturers, dieticians and allergy reactors, many of the judges were well-known figures in the food and allergy worlds. Feedback from the panels has proved invaluable to manufacturers in encouraging development and innovation in the free from market.

Commenting on the deal with Sainsbury’s, Bronagh continues: “UK families and individuals have spent more time at home over the past year. Consumers are now looking for snacks that elevate their evenings in and are leaning towards more premium, artisanal products. We’re proud that Forest Feast’s new nut ranges harness innovation and flavour discovery to meet this demand, while showcasing our in-house roasting and seasoning capabilities.”

To meet the growing consumer demand for premium and healthy snacks and in-home snacking occasions, Sainsbury’s decided to bring Forest Feast – the Original Snack Explorers - into its fold, with two of the brand’s new, innovative ranges of nuts now in 480 stores throughout the UK. The healthy credentials of the products are enhanced by many being free from gluten, high in fibre, very low in salt and suitable for vegetarians.

“Our slow roasted and seasoned nuts are made using local and artisanal ingredients to season and then slowly roasted in small batches. The signature chocolate nut range marries the nutritional goodness of nuts with the indulgence of Belgian chocolate in a confectionery category that has seen the brand experience 150-250% growth in its chocolate ranges. Handcrafted in-house, each nut is oven-roasted with its skin-on for depth of flavour and combined with a unique flavour twist,” adds Bronagh.

Sainsbury’s continues: “Over the past year, we’ve seen significant growth in customers looking for great tasting snacks, and there is a clear trend of consumers looking for more special and crafted products too - which makes Forest Feast’s proposition really strong. We look forward to being able to offer shoppers even more options to trade-up and enjoy at home.”

Forest Feast is a family run business owned by Michael Hall that’s at the forefront of the UK market for premium dried fruits, nuts, seeds, snacks and granolas. The multi-award-winning business handcrafts everything on-site at its Co Armagh base, exporting to 26 countries worldwide.

It is a brand within Kestrel Foods which has a customer base including retail, foodservice, e-commerce and travel retail. It is now among the UK and Ireland’s leading producers of dried fruit and nut snacks. The business has a strong community focus and is committed to working with suppliers who share its vision and values for sustainable supply.

A good example of this focus is its 30-year relationship with the PREDA Fair Trade foundation, based in the Philippines, a relationship that has contributed to building a sustainable future for the communities from which they source ingredients.

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