Thank you to everyone who has sent me messages of encouragement and support following last week’s column, it has meant a huge amount and I appreciate each and every one. Thankfully the R rate is decreasing in Northern Ireland, but we aren’t out of the woods yet. The infection rate in Northern Ireland is 1 in 105 people, but in Scotland it is one in 135 people. So, I urge you all to be careful, follow the advice and protect yourself and your loved ones, better times are ahead.
Thankfully our food and drink companies continue to provide encouraging news against the background of Covid-19 and local political controversy. I was truly delighted to see Denis Lynn of Finnebrogue Artisan win Entrepreneur of the Year in the Grocer Gold Awards last week. This is a UK wide award and Denis was up against stiff competition from the brightest and the best food entrepreneurs in the UK, but rose to the top of the pile. Congratulations to Denis and all the team at Finnebrogue.
Denis Lynn has really broken new ground with bringing and establishing Naked, nitrate free bacon, to the UK market, as well as positioning Finnebrogue as a leading supplier of vegetarian and vegan food. He is a true visionary who has changed what is available on our supermarket shelves and on our plates.
In addition, two other local food companies were shortlisted in the prestigious Grocer Gold Awards; Henderson Food Service in Wholesaler of the Year; and Mash Direct in Branded Supplier of the Year. They also deserve our congratulations, just being shortlisted in such influential awards, which is monitored closely by all the main supermarkets in GB and abroad, is an impressive achievement that will help increase growth in this pivotal marketplace which generates sales worth almost £3 billion annually for our economy.
During the past month, both Finnebroque and Mash Direct were also successful in winning awards in the highly influential UK Quality Food Awards. They were joined by Dunbia, our biggest meat processor which is based in Dungannon. The Quality Food Awards are among the most prestigious awards for food and drink products in the UK, recognising and celebrating the best in retail food products on sale in UK grocery outlets. The awards are immensely important because they are linked to major supermarkets.
The Dunbia awards were for sirloin steak and burgers supplied to Lidl, the leading German discounter in the UK. Finnebrogue is also a major supplier to the likes of Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda and Morrisons, while Mash Direct counts virtually all the main supermarkets in its impressive customer portfolio.
Retailers in the GB and other markets are looking continuously for novel food and drink products from established suppliers which can deliver on time and at the right price. Companies which figure in high profile awards such as Quality Food and Grocer Gold attract attention which can help open doors to the decision makers.
They also follow the outstanding achievements of our food and drink industry, mostly smaller processors, in other key competitions such as UK Great Taste and Blas na hEireann awards.
Award successes can –and do – lead to opportunities to pitch products to key buyers in major supermarket chains, smaller grocery chains and delis. This is why Food NI urges and assists our companies in entering such awards. We also see these competitions as a great way for younger companies in particular to benchmark their products against existing and potential competitors.
I believe at times like these, when we seem to be surrounded by bad news, that it is even more important to acknowledge and celebrate the people continuing to drive our food and drink industry forward and demonstrate its tremendous potential especially in key markets such as Great Britain.