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Michele Shirlow – Farm Week Column 6th September 2018.

Organic Cider Vinegar from Natural Umber strikes gold in Great Taste Awards 2018

Congratulations to Food NI member Natural Umber on winning the Northern Ireland Golden Fork at the gala final of the UK Guild of Fine Foods Great Taste Awards at the gala dinner in London on Sunday evening.

Natural Umber, which is based near Dungannon and is part of the Mackle apple family business, one of the biggest growers and processors of apples in the British Isles, came out on top of the Northern Ireland shortlist with its unique Organic Cider Apple Vinegar. This is a tremendous achievement for the company with a product launched earlier in the year.  It’s also great to see Northern Ireland’s expertise in apples, especially Bramleys, recognised in such a prestigious award.

It’s been another excellent year for Northern Ireland producers in Great Taste, especially in terms of companies achieving the coveted three-gold star status. And two Food NI member companies, Hannan Meats in Moira and Thompson’s Family Teas from Belfast, have now won more gold stars than anyone else  in the UK and Ireland.

The annual Golden Fork Awards Dinner is probably the most important event in the food and drink calendar of the British Isles. It provides an exceptional opportunity to an award winning company to reach a high profile audience of upwards of 500 food specialists including high-end retailers such as Harrods, Fortnum and Mason and Selfridge, as well as leading influencers including specialist food writers such as good friends of our food and drink Charles Campion, Xanthe Clay, Jane Curran, Diana Henry, Fiona Beckett, Jeremy Lee and Mark Hix. Overall, it’s a marvellous networking occasion for our companies.

In addition, companies have an opportunity to display their successful products on stands at the dinner and three-star winners regularly feature in dishes created on the night.

The dinner has become a tremendous showcase of the very best food and drink currently being produced in the UK and Ireland by smaller companies. I congratulate Guild of Fine Food managing director John Farrand and what is a very small team supporting the event

I am delighted to say that Northern Ireland has benefited enormously from the dinner and the overall awards especially over the last five years. And success in the awards has led to many of our smaller producers winning business with the likes of Fortnum and Mason and Selfridges.

Both retailers now have particularly close ties to Northern Ireland, ties which we are working to strengthen as part of our now extended role in marketing the products of smaller food and drink companies in Britain.

The dinner also generates extensive major print coverage in influential publications such as the Times and the Daily Telegraph as well as on radio and television during the week following the event.

The gala dinner is the most influential event in what has become Speciality and Fine Food weekend in London. Great Taste gold star winners also feature in a special presentation organised by the Guild of Fine Food for trade buyers visiting the huge annual show at the Olympia exhibition centre.

I believe that it’s essential for our sales and overall profile in Britain that Northern Ireland continues to focus on – and make a significant impact at – both Great Taste and Food and Drink Fairs across Britain and Ireland.