Eight food producers in race for top UK title

Portaferry cheesmaker Paul McClean is in the running for the UKs Top 50 Foods and Great Taste supreme championship for 2016
Portaferry cheesmaker Paul McClean is in the running for the UKs Top 50 Foods and Great Taste supreme championship for 2016

Eight local food companies will be hoping this week to be listed among this year’s Top 50 Foods by the influential UK Guild of Fine Food, organisers of the annual Great Taste Awards which were announced last week.

Listing among the Top 50 Foods could lead to their product being named Supreme Champion at a gala event in London in early September. Winning a place in the Top 50 will also attract attention from top UK and Irish retailers who watch the Great Taste Awards for new ideas for consumers.

The awards, now among the world’s most important, are also sponsored by Harrods and have produced business for local companies from other high-end retailers in London such as Fortnum and Mason, Waitrose and Selfridges.

In pole position for the Top 50 and supreme championship is Hannan Meats in Moira, the business headed by Peter Hannan which smashed all previous Great Taste Awards by racking up four products achieving the top three-star ranking, 15 at two star and 17 at one star.

No company in the UK has ever achieved such endorsement. Hannan Meats won the supreme title in 2012 and had five products in the Top 50 in 2014.

Other local companies in the running for a Top 50 listing are Abernethy Butter, Dromara, Clandeboye Estate Yoghurt, Bangor, Dale Farm, Belfast, Kearney Blue Cheese, Portaferry, Rooney Fish, Kilkeel and two Belfast tea blenders – Suki Teahouse and Thompson’s Family Teas.

Overall, 212 food and drink products from Northern Ireland companies were recognised as being outstandingly tasty by a panel of high ranking judges in this year’s awards.

John Farrand, UK Guild of Fine Food, says Northern Ireland can be proud of the achievements of local food producers in Great Taste. “Northern Ireland has emerged as a real ‘hot spot’ of innovative and tasty food and drink over the past decade. We always enjoy visiting the province to see what producers are working on.”

And Simon Hamilton, Economy minister agrees. “We have a very dynamic and ambitious food and drink industry that’s winning business increasingly in Britain and further afield. We are working closely with the industry to help companies achieve greater success abroad.”

Michele Shirlow, Food NI chief executive, adds: “The awards are very good news for us especially during the current Year of Food and Drink. The winners are helping to strengthen Northern Ireland’s position as a global centre of exceptional food and drink. Many of the winners will be showing their products in the Food Village at the upcoming BBC Good Food Show in the Waterfront Hotel in October.”