Three Dromore businesses were among some 70 Northern Ireland companies to pick up gold stars in this year’s Great Taste Awards recently.
Also among the awards, announced by the UK Guild of Fine Food, were a Dromara company and another from Banbridge.
Between them, Northern Ireland companies collected 200 gold stars.
One each went to Graham’s Bakery, Dromore, for coffee and oatmeal bites; KraziBaker, Dromore, for shortbread biscuits; MA Quaill, Dromore, for dry-aged sirloin steak; Abernethy Butter, Dromara, for dulse and sea-salt Butter and Quail’s Fine Foods, Banbridge, for 28-day Himalayan salt-aged steak and homemade pastrami.
Michele Shirlow, chief executive of Food NI, welcomed the achievements of all the companies, including many artisan enterprises.
The results, she said, showcased the quality, innovation and outstanding taste of Northern Ireland food and drink.
The competition attracted entries from virtually every part of the British Isles and other parts of Europe.
Said Michele: “The Great Taste Awards, sponsored by Harrods, are now regarded internationally as the ‘Oscars’ of the food and drink industry and are highly regarded by major retailers, high-end delis and independent stores, particularly in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.
“Many companies have found that success in previous Great Taste Awards has led to business in Europe, the Middle East and the US.
“I am confident that successful companies in 2015 will experience a significant boost in their business.
“We will be working closely with the successful companies in 2015 - as well as those from previous competitions - to showcase their superb products at a series of events across Northern Ireland.
“The awards are another tremendous boost for our £4.5 billion food and drink industry and come at a time when we are preparing to mark the achievements of companies and the quality of our food in the planned Year of Food 2016.
“They are also important in that the publicity generated in Britain and abroad supports tourism initiatives and shows potential visitors that they can expect to experience and enjoy wholesome and safe food with heritage and provenance.”
Judged by more than 400 of the most demanding palates, belonging to food critics, chefs, restaurateurs, cooks, producers and a host of food writers and journalists, Great Taste is widely acknowledged as the most respected food accreditation scheme for artisan and speciality food producers.
Judges included Masterchef judge and restaurant critic Charles Campion; TV presenter and cook, Aggie Mackenzie; Great British Bake-Off winner, Frances Quinn; Masterchef the Professionals finalist, Adam Handling; food buyers from Harrods, Selfridges, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer and chefs including James Golding, Chef Director of The Pig hotel group.