Year of Food and Drink achievements celebrated in gala awards

The first Year of Food and Drink Awards saw Derry City & Strabane District Council chosen by a panel of expert judges as Destination Delicious, Northern Ireland’s leading food destination.

Derry City & Strabane District Council furthermore, won the award for the Best Food Event or Festival for its hugely successful LegenDerry Festival organised by the regional council as part of a programme of initiatives for tourism and food and drink. Highly commended were the Speciality Food Fair, Moira, organised by Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, and Comber Earlies Food Festival, an initiative by Ards and North Down Borough Council.

Derry’s Foodovation Centre, established by North West Regional College, was chosen as winner of the Growing for the Future Award for its work to promote and assist innovation among food and drink companies in the North West. The Journey to Market Programme from Causeway Coast and Glens Council was highly commended in this category.

DestinationDeliciousFood Heartland, an initiative by Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council, gained two awards – the Roots to Market Award and the Best Food Story Award. Highly commended were Cavanagh Free Range Eggs, Newtownbutler, Co. Fermanagh and Causeway Coast and Glens for its Food Network.

Highly commended in the Best Food Story category were The Walled Garden Helen’s Bay and Belfast Metropolitan College, who recently celebrated 110 years of training in Belfast and the launch of the Linen Lounge, Yard and Scullery restaurants and their ‘Made at the Met’ Cookbook.

The Best NI Local Market was won by Comber Farmers’ Market, which is organised by Comber Regeneration.

LoughNeaghEelsThe Eel-Eat promotion of Lough Neagh eels, created and implemented by the Lough Neagh Partnership, gained the Best Marketing Initiative, while Tayto Taste of Home, Tandragee, Co. Armagh and Launching the Spar Enjoy Local Meat Range were highly commended.


Sperrin Cycle Far and Wild, a popular cycling tour of the Sperrins, which visits Dart Mountain Cheese among others, won the Best NI Tours and Trails. The award recognised the rapid growth of tourism tours across Northern Ireland – there are now 17 such tours operating here. Highly commended were Belfast Food Tour, Taste and Tour Ltd and Catch and Sea, a collaboration with The Causeway Lass and Babushka, The Harbour Portrush and Causeway Coast Foodie Tours

Mash Direct, the Comber-based producer of convenience foods, clinched the Food Innovation Award for its Crispy Vegetable Bakes product. Highly commended were The Kitchen from the Henderson Group, Newtownabbey, and Smoked Lough Neagh Eel from Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative.

The Year of Food and Drink Awards were organised by the Belfast Telegraph in association with Tourism NI, Food NI and Invest NI. Other category sponsors were the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Moy Park, Spar NI and Sodexo.

The awards were held to celebrate the achievements of Northern Ireland’s first ever Year of Food and Drink and to mark the huge contribution of tourism and food and drink to the local economy.

The judges were Charles Campion, MasterChef judge, top Irish food writer Georgina Campbell, Professor Una McMahon Brown, Ulster University, and Belfast Telegraph, Food Writer, Joris Minne Michele Shirlow, Food NI chief executive, commenting on the awards, said: “I congratulate all the award winning, those who were highly commended as well as those shortlisted. The awards showcased the dynamism and innovation now underpinning the key tourism and food and drink industries here.

“Both industries, which are crucially important to the local economy and especially in predominantly rural communities, are poised for even faster growth in the year ahead and indeed well into the future. With 90 entries, the awards emphasise the close connection between Food and Tourism and the impressive collaboration and cooperation between all the stakeholders in both. Food NI will continue to play its part in initiatives to build on this hugely important development.”