A family run butchery in Co Down, operating in the town of Kilkeel for almost 100 years, has been named the UK’s ‘Butcher Shop of the Year’ at the 2017 Farm Shop & Deli Awards
Cunningham Butchers, which employs over 50 members of staff, was also named ‘Best Retailer for Northern Ireland’ at the prestigious awards.
These new accolades follow on from Ireland’s recent Butchery Excellence Awards where the popular butchery and food hall was crowned ‘Best Butchers in Ireland’. This means the Northern Ireland company now holds the titles of best butcher shop in the UK and Ireland.
The Farm Shop & Deli Awards aim to unearth the crème de la crème of fine food retail establishments while celebrating the highest levels of service, product knowledge, innovation and community engagement. The judges applauded Cunningham’s commitment to industry leading standards which has been reflected in their phenomenal growth – up 400% in the last six years. They are the first butchers from Northern Ireland to win this UK wide award.
Nigel Barden, Chair of the Farm Shop & Deli Awards judging panel said: “It’s the attention to detail that really makes the winners stand out. Cunningham Butchers is so much more than a butchers, it has a massive range of fresh produce, fit for any fine food store. They embrace tradition yet have a great appreciation of sustainability and community and it’s apparent the staff are well trained and, crucially, enjoy their work. Inspired, informed and enthusiastic folk behind the counter make the shopping experience very enjoyable. Cunningham Butchers should be proud of their success and to be the first to bring the Farm Shop and Deli ‘UK Butcher Shop of the Year’ title home to Northern Ireland.”
Following a significant investment last year, Cunningham Butchers opened a new bistro, fresh food hall and renovated its butchery. With the expansion, the shop now provides customers with fresh produce from a deli, hot food counter and bakery as well as homemade gelato ice-cream. The business produces over 1,000 different product lines including extra lean and gluten free varieties, and supplies its range to many local retailers including EUROSPAR. It is also one of only a handful of Northern Ireland stores that boasts a Himalayan Salt Chamber for dry-ageing beef.
Speaking about the awards, James Cunningham Jnr, the fourth generation of his family to run the business said: “We are truly overwhelmed to receive these prestigious awards. I can’t thank our wonderful customers enough for their support. It’s a particularly special occasion as we now hold both a UK and Ireland ‘best butcher’ title and we are so proud to bring these accolades to our home town of Kilkeel. Being named the UK’s ‘Butcher Shop of the Year’ is testament to the passion, skill and dedication of our brilliant staff without whom our business would not be where it is today.”
He added: “Our fantastic workforce coupled with our ability to blend tradition with unique innovation has resulted in a great couple of years for our business. Since 2010, we have grown our workforce from three members of staff to over 50, and we plan to continue building on this success by offering customers high quality products that respond to customer needs but remain steeped in local provenance. We’re delighted to be playing our part in helping shine a light on Northern Ireland’s strong food credentials.”