Food NI Companies Succeed In Top Farming Awards

Food NI member companies Hillstown Farm, Irish Black Butter and Mash Direct were successful in the annual Farming Life Awards.

The awards are held by the newspaper, part of the News Letter, to celebrate and reward the outstanding achievements of farmers and food processors in Northern Ireland.

Hillstown Farm in Randsalstown, Co Antrim, which is run by Nigel Logan, won the “Best Agri-Food Business of the Year’ for its development of innovative meats, including Wagyu, and for its successful craft brewing business.

The company is now selling its range of craft beers throughout Britain from its small distillery on the family farm. The business has also been included in the Economusee network of artisan producers.

Based in Portrush, Co Antrim and run by Alastair Bell, Irish Black Butter won the ‘Best Artisan of the Year’ title on the prestigious awards which are judged by a panel of farming and food experts.

Irish Black Butter, founded in 2017, is a savoury/sweet spread made from Armagh Bramley apples with spices, treacle and brandy.

The company is now selling the distinctively different tasting spread in the UK and Ireland and recently launched a peanut and fudge flavoured products. The idea for the product was influenced by a holiday in Jersey during which Mr Bell discovered the island’s tasty apple butter.

Irish Black Butter won three gold stars in this year’s UK Great Taste Awards, a chef’s Larder Award at Blas na hEireann and also featured on BBC Two’s Dragon’s Den where it was praised by the panel of entrepreneurs.

Mash Direct was named winner of the Farm Diversification of the Year’ category. Based on a family farm at Comber in Co Down, the company is now among the most successful farm-based enterprises in the UK and Ireland.

Founded in 2003, Mash Direct produces a range of quality quick-serve potato and vegetable products for retailers in the UK, Republic of Ireland, other parts of Europe as well as the US, Middle East and Asia.

The company, now among Northern Ireland’s most successful food businesses with an impressive track record in new product development, supplies most of the leading food retailers.

It was established by Martin and Tracy Hamilton on the family farm. Sons Lance and Jack now play key roles in the development of the business.

Mash Direct has won a string of local, national and international awards including UK Great Taste Awards and the Food Manufacturing Excellence Awards.

An emphasis on provenance and traceability means that the family farm produces the majority of the raw materials with the rest being meticulously sourced throughout the UK and Ireland to produce a range free from artificial additives, preservatives or colourings.