NI Food to Go Association announces inaugural awards to enhance local industry

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New awards have been launched by the Northern Ireland Food to Go Association will celebrate and help grow the local businesses that make up the vibrant take away and food to go sector here.

The inaugural NI Food to Go Awards were recently launched at Belfast’s Malmaison Hotel, with NI Food to Go Association founder, Michael Henderson announcing the awards that will take place in November.

He said: “The Food to Go Awards are the official awards from the Northern Ireland Food to Go Association, which will be a benchmark of excellence to celebrate and highlight the businesses which create the food to go industry here.

“We also see it as a great opportunity for businesses within the sector to grow and learn and continue to evolve their professionalism and standards.”

Left to right: Q Radio DJ and awards host Ibe Sesay, Junior Minister Pam Cameron, chairperson of the NI Food to Go Association and sales director at Henderson Foodservice Kiera Campbell and NI Food to Go Association founder Michael HendersonLeft to right: Q Radio DJ and awards host Ibe Sesay, Junior Minister Pam Cameron, chairperson of the NI Food to Go Association and sales director at Henderson Foodservice Kiera Campbell and NI Food to Go Association founder Michael Henderson
Left to right: Q Radio DJ and awards host Ibe Sesay, Junior Minister Pam Cameron, chairperson of the NI Food to Go Association and sales director at Henderson Foodservice Kiera Campbell and NI Food to Go Association founder Michael Henderson

The NI Food to Go Association, which has recently rebranded from its former NI Takeaway Association moniker to be more representative of the ever-evolving industry, provides an expert voice, advice and advocacy under its “unite, support, grow” ethos, while upholding industry standards for businesses working in the sector across Northern Ireland.

He added: “Over the past five years, we have grown our membership base to represent every taste of our local food to go scene, from Asian cuisine to artisanal sandwich establishments, coffee emporiums and Mexican food trucks, and we want to celebrate their innovation and contribution to the economy here in Northern Ireland.”

Speaking at the event, Junior Minister Pam Cameron highlighted the positive contribution the sector makes to the local economy.

She said: “The food to go industry is playing a vital role in our economy. With more than 400 businesses spread across the region, the sector also impacts positively on such a wide and diverse range of rural and urban communities.

Left to right: Junior Minister Pam Cameron, NI Food to Go Association founder Michael Henderson and chairperson of the NI Food to Go Association and sales director at Henderson Foodservice, Kiera CampbellLeft to right: Junior Minister Pam Cameron, NI Food to Go Association founder Michael Henderson and chairperson of the NI Food to Go Association and sales director at Henderson Foodservice, Kiera Campbell
Left to right: Junior Minister Pam Cameron, NI Food to Go Association founder Michael Henderson and chairperson of the NI Food to Go Association and sales director at Henderson Foodservice, Kiera Campbell

“The food to go industry stands as a valuable and valued service in local communities and you should all be very proud that you boast such an extensive footprint across Northern Ireland.”

The professional judging panel will be headed up by food writer and restaurant reviewer, Joris Minne, and will help entrants strive for higher standards of professionalism, with entrants not only being judges on food quality but also hygiene, sustainability, customer service and community engagement.

Michael continued: “The awards are going to be judged by a respected independent panel. They will mark our entrants not just on the food they are producing, but their training opportunities, sustainability measures, and food safety standards. It will be an exercise in growth and achievements.”

Northern Ireland’s takeaway and food to go sector represents a contribution of millions of pounds into the local economy, providing tens of thousands full and part time jobs, but there is still more to be done to make these stats more accessible.

Mr Henderson added: “Challenges from the pandemic lockdowns saw a diverse response from hospitality businesses with many establishments pivoting to provide a food to go offering, and many continue to operate that side of their businesses.

“We know that anecdotally from our own membership base and working with the sector day in, day out, but we will continue to work with the NI Assembly and NISRA to allow accountability and real figures that give us a better understanding of the sector here in Northern Ireland, which is a clear aim of our association for the coming months.”

The awards will be supported by one of Ireland’s leading suppliers to the hospitality industry, Henderson Foodservice.

Kiera Campbell, chairperson of the NI Food to Go Association and sales director at Henderson Foodservice said: “We have witnessed incredible resilience and growth from this sector, which continues to push the boundaries to bring new and exciting food to go concepts to market here in Northern Ireland.

“The Food to Go Awards are an opportunity for us to truly celebrate that innovation, and showcase those businesses that have been going the extra mile for their customers, showing longevity in the face of challenges and diversity, and providing a well-known and beloved takeaway for families and communities across the country. We are really looking forward to being a part of the celebrations.”

Entries for the Food to Go Awards are now open, with the Gala ceremony taking place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Belfast on Tuesday 19 November 2024, hosted by Q Radio presenter, Ibe Sesay.

For more information, categories and entry deadlines, visit foodtogoawards.co.uk.