Winning tastes from Northern Ireland on a global plate

Article by Michele Shirlow for Farmweek 15/09/2016

We could scarcely have imagined that Year of Food and Drink 2016 would see the most important accolade in the European food and drink industry return to Northern Ireland. Last week the Supreme Champion title in the highly influential Great Taste Awards was won by a Northern Ireland company, Hannan Meats of Moira.

This inspirational company, headed by dedicated foodie Peter Hannan, is now the first business ever to win the industry’s top award for the second time. This meant competing against 10,000 entries to reach pole position. Much has already been written about this small company’s extraordinary success. Thanks to Ulster Bank who supported the awards, I was privileged to be in the audience at the award ceremony for the first time. The awards followed a spectacular dinner, including Abernethy smoked butter, which also represented Northern Ireland in the final top 18 products.michele--farmweek

Unprecedented in the 22-year history of Great Taste, Hannan Meats’ second Supreme Champion accolade follows the producer first lifting the prize in 2012 for its Moyallon Guanciale. Hannan Meats’ world-class butchery and maturation methods wowed the judging panel, who were bowled over by this very special cut of meat and couldn’t “believe that beef could taste so good”.

It was a genuinely inspirational evening which showcased what winning the Supreme Champion means to the food industry and how difficult it is to come out on top of some 10,000 entries from across the UK, Republic of Ireland and other parts of Europe. Competition for the top award was intense this year….as it is every year. Winning this award for Northern Ireland in 2016 enhances our reputation as a high quality food region. As well as the success of Hannan Meats, Northern Ireland companies collected an unprecedented 212 gold stars for sensational products.

Hannan Meats is a remarkably successful company, an outstanding role model for other smaller food and drink companies here showing just what can be achieved from a commitment to excellence across a business. In addition to two Supreme Champion awards, Hannan Meats has now won more gold stars for its products than any other company in the UK and Ireland.

The latest achievement is particularly timely coming as it does during our first ever Year of Food and Drink, an initiative supported enthusiastically by Peter Hannan. The award will certainly help to raise awareness of the premium quality of our food and drink to another level especially in Great Britain, our most important external market as well as in the Republic of Ireland, our biggest single export market.

Diners were able to experience Hannan’s succulent Glenarm Shorthorn Four Rib Roast, an exceptional piece of beef that is dry-aged in a Himalayan Salt Chamber for a minimum of 28 days. Great praise is also due to Adrian Morrow and the team at Glenarm estate in Co. Antrim for the quality of beef supplied consistently to Hannan Meats for processing.

Another immensely important development last week was the launch of ‘Belfast on a Plate’, a splendid new publication by photographer David Pauley and written by Joanna Braniff, which charts the emergence of Belfast as a globally competitive culinary destination.

This brilliant publication covers 20 Belfast chefs, their restaurants and their outstanding contribution to our dynamic and highly innovative food culture. Like Peter Hannan, the passion that each of the chefs has for their culinary art, pours out from each page. Not only is it a beautiful book, it is a milestone in Belfast’s culinary history and it will be highly beneficial to Tourism Ireland and Tourism NI as they leverage the power of our food and drink to boost tourism revenues, a key focus in Year of Food and Drink.

Finally, best wishes to Broughgammon Farm and Pheasants Hill Farm, Northern Irish Finalists, who are off to Birmingham to compete in the British Street Food Awards this weekend.