The organiser of the Great Taste awards, otherwise known as the ‘oscars’ of the fine food world, visited Craigavon on Thursday recently to advise local food and drink producers on how to earn industry-acclaimed benchmarks for their products.
John Farrand, MD of the Guild of Fine Food, the organisers of the Great Taste awards, was the guest speaker at a workshop aimed at encouraging local companies to seek industry accreditations to help raise standards and increase export potential.
The seminar took place in Craigavon Civic Centre and was attended by some of Northern Ireland’s largest food and drink companies, including Avondale Foods, Moy Park and Irwin’s Bakery, as well as thriving Portadown SMEs Armagh Cider Company.
It was the third in a series of four workshops co-ordinated by the council in conjunction with Food NI and the Northern Ireland Regional Food Programme as part of the recently-established ‘Craigavon Agri-Food and Drink Forum’. The forum was established in September 2014 as a business think-tank to boost export, innovation and entrepreneurship in the Craigavon food and drink sector.
Mr Farrand said, “The Great Taste accreditation greatly enhances a company’s reputation and profile as well as opening doors to new markets in different countries. Today’s workshop was a fantastic opportunity for SMEs to join with some of Northern Ireland’s biggest and most successful food and drink producers to learn more about how to enter the awards and achieve such acclaimed benchmarks.”
The companies also sampled products, conduct a tasting session and to understand more about what is involved in a Great Taste judging session.
Michelle Shirlow of Food NI said, “Craigavon has proved itself to be the agri-food and drink heartland of Northern Ireland and there are a number of Northern Ireland products already on the Great Taste list of Britain’s Top 50 foods. It is important that the region builds on this success and ensures that the established companies continue to thrive while SMEs are supported to grow and new start-ups continue to emerge.
“There could well be a lot of hidden gems in the speciality food and drink sector who would benefit greatly from receiving the Great Taste stamp of approval and this seminar was to provide a platform for these companies to learn from the best. It was a great coup for Craigavon Borough Council and Food NI to have the Managing Director of the Guild of Fine Food as our lead speaker and I am sure every company in attendance will have benefitted greatly from his advice.”
The final Craigavon Agri-Food and Drink Forum workshop will take place in March and will focus on developing an action plan for the region.