It was immeasurably encouraging to hear of generous comments for two of our innovative dairy companies, Abernethy Butter in Dromara and Bangor’s Clandeboye Yoghurt, from two culinary experts, both well-known and respected television personalities.
Nigella Lawson opted for Abernethy’s dulse butter as her best flavoured butter, while celebrity chef Yotam Ottolengi, the owner of six delis and restaurants in London, expressed his preference for Clandeboye Yoghurt when in Northern Ireland.Clandeboye, I was delighted to hear, has also just announced investment in a new building to meet the growing demand for its exceptional yoghurt.
Such endorsements are exceptionally important as food and drink companies endeavour to recoup sales in Britain. The lockdown, due to coronavirus, has impacted on hospitality and temporarily reduced that market for many of our local talented food and drink companies. There have been so many painstaking weeks, months and years, spent by the individuals in these companies innovating to meet the rigorous standards of high-end chefs and retailers all over the UK.
Thankfully Northern Ireland’s reputation as a source of excellent food has been building in recent years and hasbenefited enormously from the support of many top chefs, restaurateurs and retail buyers. Among the most supportive has been Ewan Ventners, the managing director of the iconic Fortnum & Mason in London’s Piccadilly, who has just announced he’s moving on to another post outside the retailer.
Many of our producers have gained business with the high-end store during his time at the helm in which he has revolutionised its food and drink offering. He was instrumental in two major food and drink promotions involving dozens of smaller businesses from Northern Ireland showcasing their talents at the iconic store.
Among companies to achieve listing in Fortnum & Mason are Hannan Meats in Moira, now a key supplier of beef and bacon to the store, Glenarm Organic Salmon, Abernethy Butter, Ballylisk of Armagh Cheese from Tandragee and gin producers Echlinville of Kircubbin and Crossgar’s Shortcross. Mr Ventners will be missed. He became a very close friend of our own Peter Hannan, who regularly hosted visits to Northern Ireland by Mr Ventners and members of his food and drink buying team
I’d also wish to extend congratulations to local meat producers which have been successful in the recent Meat Management Industry Awards. Linden Foods in Dungannon, gained two major category awards for products developed in collaboration with top retailer Marks and Spencer. The awards were for Britain’s Best Meat Pie for its M&S MMMummy Meat Loaf and Best Beef Product for its M&S British Duke of Beef.
The awards are an excellent example of the commitment, versatility and flexibility of our leading processors in creatinginnovative foods that meet the exacting requirements of buyers in major retailers and appeal to consumers across the UK and Ireland. They also demonstrate, the outstanding quality of raw materials produced by our excellent farmersespecially in dairy and meat. We have some of the best farm produce available anywhere in the world.
The endorsements from celebrity chefs, food writers and in major national competitions coincided with the first Back British Farmers Day last week.
The day was held to showcase the amazing contribution to the UK economy at a time when concern is growing again about the likely adverse impact on the agri-food industry from the trade negotiations with the US, which is demanding unfettered access to the UK marketplace. Over one million signed up to the campaign supporting food produced to world leading standards.
The Prime Minister and many of his Conservative Party colleagues conspicuously wore wheatsheafs in their lapels to show their support for our farmers and their role in feeding the nation, especially during the recent initial lockdown. I wonder has this administration woken up to the importance of high-quality food since the Prime Minister suffered with coronavirus. The campaign is wake-up call about the importance of food which is the foundation of health and a strong immune system. One can only hope.