Food, drink and hospitality businesses and individuals from across Northern Ireland’s official Food Heartland are celebrating after securing success in the biennial Food Heartland awards, proving again that the region deserves its enviable reputation for excellence and innovation.
The Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon area is already making a big name for itself at home and away for the quality of its ingredients, food provenance and award-winning artisan produce – and is still celebrating after confirming its place as a top five foodie destination in Ireland.
After an unprecedented number of entries and a shortlist of 12 category awards, a total of nine businesses came out on top after a rigorous judging process spearheaded by chef, writer and broadcaster Paula McIntyre MBE and renowned culinary expert Noel McMeel, Executive Chef of the exclusive Lough Erne Resort.
Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s Food Heartland Awards, in association with Power NI, took place at a gala ceremony at The Palace Demesne, Armagh with special guest Jean-Christophe Novelli.
Best business New Start, and poised for great international success, was artisan cheesemaker Ballylisk of Armagh – the only Northern Ireland producer to use its own established dairy herd to produce its quality range of cheeses, some of which are already on sale at London’s iconic Borough Market.
Craigavon’s Holmes Bakery, which produces quality, handcrafted products using quality ingredients and traditional methods – and famed for its butter shortbread and flake meal biscuits – won the Best Export Business award in recognition for its fast-growing sales to retailers, private label and food service clients across the UK and Ireland.
Burren Balsamics from Richhill, a previous New Start winner, took home the Innovation Award for 2018 for its success in focusing on developing and growing its in-demand range of perfectly handcrafted infusions and building new markets outside Northern Ireland.
Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Councillor Julie Flaherty said: “Our Food Heartland Awards represent an important showcase of quality, innovation and outstanding taste for all our businesses – both large and small – and for those individuals who help to power our flourishing food-focused region.
“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate everyone on their achievements and to everyone involved, to thank them for their efforts, their skills, passion and drive to succeed locally, nationally and internationally.”
Armagh’s stunning, five-star Newforge House was rewarded for its exquisite hospitality offer with an award for Best Licensed Eating Establishment and for the quality of its dishes which use the best local ingredients.
Gourmet growers Davison Canners, a Portadown-based company famed for its quality jams, compotes and fillings range produced from its 120-acre orchards, took the Best Growth Business award in recognition of its business success. Portadown’s The Yellow Door Deli and Harnett’s Oils from Banbridge were jointly rewarded for the commitment to sustainability as Banbridge-based Quails Fine Foods was officially acknowledged as the Food Heartland’s Best Independent Retail Food Business.
The Yellow Door Deli also found itself the winner of the Best Non-Licensed Eating Award and its owner, respected chef and entrepreneur Simon Dougan, received the esteemed Industry Ambassador Award to rapturous applause.
James Gracey of Quail’s Butchers, Dromore, was praised for his skills and passion for his trade, receiving the coveted Rising Star award which was sponsored by Southern Regional College.
Moy Park, based in Craigavon and a global leader in food production, was rewarded for Best Marketing Campaign.
Lord Mayor Julie Flaherty added: “Our borough is home to a wealth of high quality food and drink as well as world-renowned products with protected status including Armagh Bramley Apples and Lough Neagh Eels and I’m delighted that everyone involved in this important sector are now receiving the recognition they deserve.”
Alan Egner, Commercial Sales & Marketing Manager from key sponsor Power NI said: “We are delighted to sponsor the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council Food Heartland Awards 2018. This is a fantastic initiative which has a huge connection with many of our customers in the agri-food sector in this region. The awards have been a great opportunity for us to show our support to this vibrant and innovative sector. We would like to congratulate all the winners in achieving their well-deserved success.”