Cream of the crop at the NIFDA Awards

Michael Bell, Executive Director of NIFDA, Jonathan Verner, Business Manager for The Co-operative, Emma Swan, Buying Manager, ASDA, Chris Bell, Sales Operations Executive, Lidl Northern Ireland, Leanne Black, Technical Manager, Tesco and Simon Layton, NI Head of Region, M&S.
Michael Bell, Executive Director of NIFDA, Jonathan Verner, Business Manager for The Co-operative, Emma Swan, Buying Manager, ASDA, Chris Bell, Sales Operations Executive, Lidl Northern Ireland, Leanne Black, Technical Manager, Tesco and Simon Layton, NI Head of Region, M&S.

Over 400 guests turned out in style to celebrate the achievements of the leading food and drink companies at the 2019 Northern Ireland Food and Drink Awards.

A total of eight awards were presented at the gala ceremony, hosted by Jo Scott in the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Held by the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) and supported by Ulster Bank, the awards are widely recognised as a crucial measure of commercial success for food and drink manufacturers and processors. With major retailers, government officials and industry leaders in attendance, the event also offers local companies a unique opportunity to showcase their commitment to excellence in front of industry stakeholders and customers.

On the night, there were joint winners in the ‘Ulster Bank Best New Product in a Large Company’ category - Linden Foods for its 4 Lamb Loin with Honey Roasted Parsnips and Finnebrogue Artisan for Naked Unsmoked Back Bacon. Mash Direct picked up the award for ‘Best New Product in a Medium Company’ for Beer Battered Onion Rings while Cloughbane Farm Foods won the Small Company category with its Spicy Lentil and Root Vegetable Casserole.

The Deloitte Service Sector Award was won by Gilfresh Produce, while the DAERA Agri-Food Supply Chain Excellence Award was presented to ABP for the Blade Farming Project. Kestrel Foods took home the Invest Northern Ireland Best International or GB Product Launch in recognition of the introduction of its Forest Feast Fruit Ball Range. Two individual awards were presented at the event; Hilary Faith, Pritchitts won the safefood Food Safety Champion Award while Trevor Lockhart, Chief Executive, Fane Valley Foods was honoured for his Outstanding Contribution to the Industry.

Congratulating the winners, Michael Bell, Executive Director, NIFDA said:“When it comes to innovation, quality and commercial success, Northern Ireland’s food and drink industry is truly world leading. These awards are a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the sector’s achievements and to showcase those companies whose products are putting Northern Ireland on the map as a centre of food and drink excellence.

“This is the 15th time NIFDA has held these awards and in the history of the event, we have never held it during such tumultuous times. However, this event is proof, if it were needed, of how resilient our industry is.

“On behalf of the Association I would like to pay a special thanks to everyone who entered and to our judges and event sponsors, as without their support this event would not be possible. Tonight’s winners should be rightly proud of their achievements and we look forward to celebrating their continued success.”

Nigel Walsh, Director, Corporate & Commercial Banking, Ulster Bank, added: “Food and drink is a core part of the Northern Ireland economy and it’s a fundamentally important sector for us at Ulster Bank. The energy, effort and commitment of all those who entered this year’s awards shows that the sector has the talent and resilience to continue its growth and development.”

List of results:

Ulster Bank Best New Product, Large Company - Linden Foods Ltd, 4 Lamb Loin with Honey Roasted Parsnips - Joint Winner, Finnebrogue Artisan, Naked Unsmoked Back Bacon - Joint Winner; Dale Farm, Milk Plus - Highly Commended

Ulster Bank Best New Product, Medium Company - Mash Direct, Beer Battered Onion Rings - Winner

Ulster Bank Best New Product, Small Company - Cloughbane Farm Foods, Spicy Lentil & Root Vegetable Casserole - Winner; The Echlinville Distillery, Echlinville Irish Pot Still Gin - Highly Commended; Big Pot Co Ltd, Classic Chicken and Vegetable Handmade Soup - Highly Commended

Deloitte Service Sector Award - Gilfresh Produce, Sliced Leeks - Winner; Linden Foods, Turf and Clover Chuck and Cheek Burger - Highly Commended; Rademon Estate Distillery, Shortcross Gin Bar Tenders Series #1 - Highly Commended

DAERA Agri-Food Supply Chain Excellence Award - ABP, Blade Farming Project - Winner; Foyle Food Group, Aberdeen Angus Quality Beef Superior Genetics Programme - Highly Commended

Invest NI Best International or GB Product Launch - Kestrel Foods, Forest Feast Fruit Ball Range - Winner; Dale Farm, WPC80 Lactosyn, low lactose high protein whey - Highly Commended; Linden Foods, Beef Teriyaki Stir Fry - Highly Commended

safefood Food Safety Champion Award - Hilary Faith, Pritchitts

Ulster Bank Outstanding Contribution Award - Trevor Lockhart, Chief Executive, Fane Valley Foods