Awards keep rolling in for Northern Ireland’s dynamic food and drink industry

Awards keep rolling in for Northern Ireland’s dynamic food and drink industry. Our companies, both large and small, have won a cluster of major national awards over the past few weeks.

At a time when other manufacturing sectors are under severe pressure food and drink companies here are winning recognition for excellent processes and products. The achievements are immensely encouraging as we look towards our Year of Food and Drink in 2016. I am sure that there’ll be further awards to celebrate then.

Moy Park, our biggest company and now the leading European poultry processor, for instance, was named Food Manufacture Company of the Year 2015 in last week’s Food Manufacturing Excellence Awards (FMEA), the ‘Oscars’ of the UK food and drink industry. The outstanding poultry business, Northern Ireland’s only £1 billion company, also lifted the category award as meat and poultry manufacturing company of the year. Moy Park now sell over £1.4 billion and employs 12,000 people at 14 processing sites and production facilities in Northern Ireland, England, France, the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland.

And Moy Park wasn’t alone in carrying the baton for the Northern Ireland team. While it was the most successful, four smaller manufacturers were also shortlisted in the awards, now in their 15th year. They were Moira’s Hannan Meats, Mash Direct, Comber, Willowbrook Foods, Killinchy and Sydney Scott, Coleraine. They positioned Northern Ireland as the most successful region in the awards. Congratulations to Moy Park and the other local successes.

And congratulations are also due to Jack Dobson, joint managing director of Dungannon meat processor Dunbia, who was has named Industry Entrepreneur of the Year at the recent EY awards in Dublin. The annual EY Awards are regarded as the most important on the island of Ireland.

Jack Dobson masterminded the remarkable success story that is Dunbia with Jim, his brother and co-founder of the business that is now among the biggest and most successful meat processors in the UK and Ireland.

Dunbia is now Northern Ireland’s second biggest food business after the Brazilian owned Moy Park. Listed recently at four in Northern Ireland’s top exporters, Dunbia is Northern Ireland’s biggest beef processor with exports of £650 million to Europe, North America and the Far East. The company employs upwards of 4,000 people in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain. It also produces lamb and pork.

Hannan Meats also added a further trophy by clinching a gold medal in the inaugural World Steak Challenge. The Moira company gained a prestigious gold standard award for its Glenarm Shorthorn beef that’s dry-aged in the world’s biggest Himalayan salt chamber. The medal is the latest in a series of major awards for the Northern Ireland company’s steak and other cuts. These have included a cluster of UK Great Taste Awards from the Guild of Fine Food as well as two major awards in the recent Blas na hEireann awards.

CoCouture, the Belfast artisan chocolate business run by Deirdre McCanny, picked up two medals in the prestigious Academy of Chocolate Awards 2015.These were for the ‘Best Dark Chocolate Flavoured Bar’ and its ‘Ginger and Lime 70% and Coffee and Cacao Nibs 95%’ bars.

Hughes Mushrooms in Dungannon has been recognised by top retailer Waitrose a range of innovative measures to reduce carbon.

Another much smaller business, Heavenly Tasty Organics in Augher village in Tyrone gained the top organic product in last week’s Boots Maternity and Infant Awards in Dublin for its unique juices for babies. What a great foundation on which to launch into Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink 2016, and what a great platform to promote our food and drink story to the world.