Northern Ireland’s Long Meadow Cider has won marketing support and brand visibility worth £30,000 in a unique competition run by George Best Belfast City Airport to assist the growth of the food and drink industry.
Long Meadow Blossom Burst Cider also pipped nine other local products in a final tasting session at Belfast City Airport which included a panel of food and drink experts headed by Charles Campion, one of the UK’s most high-profile food critics.
The competition, launched in partnership with Food NI and local councils in January to find the best local food and drink product, offered the prize of £20,000 of branding on site at Belfast City Airport and £10,000 of online support through the airport’s digital channels.
Joining Charles on the tasting panel for the final shortlisted 10 products were Joanne Deighan, commercial manager at Belfast City Airport, Michele Shirlow, chief executive of Food NI, and food and beverage expert Charlie Kerlin, director of Corporate Finance at Grant Thornton, the business consultancy.
The tasting session was the final stage of the competition, which also involved a detailed application process and a two-week social media competition.
Joanne Deighan, for the airport, said: “We are delighted that Long Meadow Blossom Burst Cider has been crowned Northern Ireland’s best local food and drink product and will receive the fantastic prize of £30,000 of marketing support at Belfast City Airport.
“Over 2.67 million passengers from across the world travel through the airport each year and to receive this amount of exposure will help significantly elevate the profile of Long Meadow Blossom Burst Cider to an international level.”
Long Meadow Cider is owned by husband and wife, Pat and Catherine McKeever, and is based on the family’s apple farm at Loughgall in county Armagh. Managing director Pat McKeever: “We are totally overwhelmed to win this fantastic prize. To just make the final shortlist was a massive achievement in itself, and to be named winner amongst such strong competition is a major honour.
“The marketing prize and the brand exposure we will receive through Belfast City Airport will have a phenomenal impact on our business. We are a family firm that is extremely passionate about what we do and this prize will help take our product to another level.”
Michele Shirlow said: “Huge congratulations to our winner, Long Meadow Blossom Burst Cider, and also to our nine incredible finalists, each of whom has done exceptionally well to reach this stage of the competition.
“I would also like to thank everyone on our judging panel, and I want to offer a special word of thanks to celebrated food critic Charles Campion for his invaluable input.”
Charles Campion, food critic for The Times, The Daily Telegraph and the London Evening Standard, said: “Long Meadow Blossom Burst Cider is a worthy winner of this fantastic competition. This initiative is further evidence that Northern Ireland is truly making its mark in the global food and drink market.”
The full list of 10 shortlisted products was:
- Mash Direct, Comber, County Down – Champ
- Long Meadow Blossom Burst Cider, Loughgall, County Armagh
- Melting Pot Traditional Butter Fudge, Belfast
- Morelli’s Ice Cream, Coleraine, Derry~Londonderry – Double Cream Vanilla Ice Cream
- Boatyard Distillery, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh – The Boatyard Double Gin
- Abernethy Butter Company, Dromora, County Down – Handmade butter
- Mauds Ice Creams Ltd, Carrickfergus, County Antrim – Poor Bear’s Delight
- Pop Notch, Maghera, Derry~Londonderry – Salted Caramel Popcorn
- Donnybrewer Butter, Eglinton. Derry~Londonderry – handcrafted butter
- Rademon Estate Distillery, Crossgar, County Down – Shortcross Gin