Blas na hÉireann Awards take place in Co. Kerry

John and Rosemary Rooney of Supreme Award winners Rooney Fish from Newry
John and Rosemary Rooney of Supreme Award winners Rooney Fish from Newry

The Blas na hÉireann Irish Food Awards took place in Dingle, Co. Kerry this past weekend, as hundreds of producers, manufacturers and other key figures from the industry gathered in the iconic town for a celebration of Ireland's food industry.

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8 October 2018 | 0

The Blas na hÉireann Irish Food Awards took place in Dingle, Co. Kerry this past weekend, as hundreds of producers, manufacturers and other key figures from the industry gathered in the iconic town for a celebration of Ireland’s food industry.

Blas na hÉireann, the Irish Food Awards, took place in the picturesque surroundings of Dingle, Co. Kerry this past weekend, at which hundreds of awards were given to Irish food brands and producers in a celebration of Ireland’s industry. Entrepreneurship and new businesses are widely celebrated at Blas, as are the supermarket brands which strive to bring the best-quality offerings to wide audiences.

Among the main winners, Newry seafood seller Rooney Fish received the Supreme Champion award for its Millbay Oysters, while Refuge Hot Chocolate was announced as Best Artisan Product.

Rooney Fish is a family-run business established in 1975 in Kilkeel, Co. Down. Now in its second generation, it specialises in catching, preparing and processing the finest catch from the waters surrounding Ireland. In 2014 Rooney Fish established an oyster farm in Carlingford Lough close to Kilkeel base. Here the company combines traditional methods with innovative, new ideas to produce those award-winning oysters Millbay Oysters.

Refuge Hot Chocolate is a Belfast food company and social enterprise founded in 2017 by Tara Mullan. Its original objective was to assist and support survivors of human trafficking. The artisan chocolate product is eco-friendly, fair trade and traffic-free. It is sold at local markets and can be ordered directly from the brand’s Facebook page.

“We are absolutely delighted,” said John Rooney of the win. “Although we’ve grown considerably since we began we’re still a family business and to be recognised with this award from Blas na hÉireann, who themselves believe so strongly in community and family, is a huge honour.”

Meanwhile, Musgrave brands across the Centra and SuperValu groups won a hugely impressive 132 Blas Na hÉireann awards. SuperValu’s own-brand range won 30 awards including a coveted Chef’s Larder Award for its Signature Tastes Irish Hampshire Smoked Ham Fillet, while brands represnting SuperValu’s Food Academy took 79 Awards, including 24 Gold.

In the past three years, SuperValu has won more than 300 Blas na hÉireann awards in total.

Aldi also had a strong showing at the event, with 19 of its products and suppliers recieving accolades. Gold medal winners include Aldi’s Handmade Chocolate Bar, produced by Aine’s Chocolates of Co. Cavan; Aldi’s Irish Relish Jalapeno Pepper produced by Cork-based Folláin and Aldi’s Specially Selected Bronze Turkey Crown with Pork and Cranberry Stuffing, produced by IGWT of Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan.

Lidl‘s own-brand products took home 6 Gold, 4 Silver and 6 Bronze medals, including spirits, meat, cheese and preserves.

The Blas na hÉireann awards are the biggest blind tasting of produce in the country, and the criteria on which the product is judged as well as the judging system itself, which was developed by Blas na hÉireann with the Food Science Dept of UCC, is now recognised as an international industry standard.

Artie Clifford, chairperson and founder of Blas na hÉireann, said the passion among Irish consumers for good local food has never been greater. “The community that has come together through Blas an hEireann over the last 11 years is seen more clearly every year through the standard of entries,” he said. “Their hard work, obsessiveness and the quality of the product that comes from that focus and commitment is seen more clearly every year in the standard of entries.”

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