A Londonderry butter producer has won the top title at the Henderson Foodservice Flavour of the North final.
Donnybrewer Butter, based in Eglinton and run by husband and wife team Richard and Alison Leighton, was announced as the winner of the award at a special breakfast event held by the foodservice company at St George’s Market today.
Some of the most respected names in Northern Ireland’s food and drink industry who sat on the judging panel said they were highly impressed by the product which is churned in small batches with the freshest cream available. The sea-salted butter is formed into a distinctive hexagonal shape, to reflect the stones of the Giant’s Causeway, before being packaged in traditional style in wax paper.
On top of being awarded the Flavour of the North title, Donnybrewer Butter wins an exclusive and comprehensive prize package including a product listing with Henderson Foodservice, giving the company direct access to 4,500 customers across Ireland in the new year, features in monthly promotional brochures and marketing and commercial support.
Judging the competition, which was launched back in May and attracted around 40 high quality entrants were some of the most respected names in Northern Ireland’s Food and Drink industry including Chef Danny Millar, hotelier Howard Hastings, retailer Gail Boyd, restaurateur and chef Tony Neill, Chairman of the Mount Charles Group Trevor Annon and Damien Barrett, Managing Director of Henderson Foodservice.
Taking advantage of the judges’ experience, competitors were given first-hand advice and guidance from the panel’s wealth of knowledge of the food and drink industry.
Donnybrewer beat off competition from four other finalists across Northern Ireland including Corndale Farm in Limavady , Toomebridge-based Lough Neagh Eels, Pop Notch Popcorn, produced in Draperstown, and Cavanagh Eggs in Newtownbutler.
Each of the companies was selected by a highly respectable team of judges following a deliberation day held at Loughry College, Cookstown where 12 shortlisted companies exhibited their wares, eager to impress the panel and win a place in the grand final.
While taste was of paramount importance, judges were also looking for excellence in innovation, examining growth potential and critiquing the uniqueness of the product.
Damien Barrett, Managing Director at Henderson Foodservice, said: “Judges were blown away by the five products we shortlisted in the Flavour of the North competition so it was a very tough decision to choose a winner.
“But in the end we decided that Donnybrewer Butter was the most fitting winner in terms of taste, innovation, potential for growth and uniqueness of the product. We look forward to offering the company what we believe is an excellent new route to market with the opportunity to supply some top local restaurants, hotels and stores.
“We launched the Flavour of the North Competition to help us communicate our support for local produce. We believe strongly that Northern Ireland food and drink is among the best in the world and it deserves to be championed and we have greatly enjoyed every step of the journey of getting to know some of our local companies and their amazing products and shining a light on those.”
The initiative has also received significant backing from Food NI who welcomed the scheme as part of the much celebrated Year of Food and Drink 2016.
Sharon Machala of Food NI said: “ Northern Ireland’s food and drink industry is widely celebrated, but in order for us to continue to grow, we need to continue to support local food producers in bringing new and exciting products to the market.
“That’s why we have been so pleased to support Henderson Foodservice’s Flavour of the North competition. I want to congratulate Donnybrewer Butter on winning the overall award and wish the company every success for the future.”
Guests at the Henderson Foodservice Flavour of the North Breakfast event were able to taste all of the finalists’ produce in innovative dishes including chorizo hash, hot buttered popcorn bread,
smoked eel eggs benedict, smoked eel hash browns, pancakes with chorizo popcorn and maple syrup, and chorizo and fennel wheaten bread.
Donnybrewer Butter will showcased at Henderson Foodservice’s exhibition stand at the Ramada Hotel on October 18 and 19.