Ireland is the Food Island

WELL done to the Irish food producers who have won nearly 10% of the gold star ratings in the British Guild of Fine Food’s Great Taste Awards.

According to judges for the awards, what separates a truly exquisite food from an acceptable food isn’t the packaging, marketing, or promotional budget. They say the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

So the awards bring confirmation that Ireland is indeed the Food Island.

British consumers spend more than €200 billion per year on food. In terms of food raw material, Ireland is estimated to have 2.6% of this lucrative market.

But to win nearly 10% of the awards — and more than 8% in the top-rated three stars category — in the “Oscars” benchmark of the British fine food world, is a huge boost for Ireland’s so-called speciality foods sector.

A precise definition of ‘speciality foods’ is difficult, but trade specialists agree that these are foods which deliver superior taste, contain high quality ingredients, and are manufactured by artisan or handcrafted methods.

They are aimed at “purge and splurge” consumers who trade down on basic grocery items, while treating themselves to foods that are luxurious, indulgent and more expensive.

More important, they “fly the flag” for the quality, authenticity and taste of all Irish food and drink products.

Eight Irish three-stars-winners can now claim to produce some of the best foods in Britain and Ireland.

Among them is the Woodcock Smokery, Castletownshend, Co Cork, already the first Irish winner of the supreme Great Taste Award, in 2006, for their Irish wild smoked salmon.

The west Cork company is again one of the stars of the awards, as one of the eight Irish three-stars-winners out of 95 of the 6,021 food and drink products entered in the awards.

The 95 now go into the next stage of testing for major regional and national awards, and the 2010 supreme winner will be announced in London on September 6.

Doing well in the awards is one of the most powerful tools to help grow business in the speciality food sector. The eight Irish products are in there with the likes of Jervaulx Blue cheese, the choice of British Airways for their first class and business class passengers, so the Irish winners can aim high also.

It’s a reminder for the Government here of the potential in our food industry, and what’s in stake in their Food Harvest 2020 strategy for the next 10 years.

It’s encouraging for Irish farmers that the Irish award winners include mainstream as well as niche food products. Big food processors with large staffs have shown they can match the artisan food companies.

AIBP, one of Ireland’s biggest beef processors, won awards for three products.

Kerry Foods, one of Ireland’s biggest food companies, and Carton Bros are also among the star awards.

Truly Irish Country Foods have won with four of their pork products, quite an achievement within five years of the company being set up by more than 100 pig farmers.

Oakpark Foods is another big pork company to do well, winning with five of their products.

Callan Bacon, with 76 employees, had two winning products.


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