Meat company Hannan picks up Taste food award for a second time
Meat mogul Peter Hannan has said he accepted the UK food industry's top gong for the second time on behalf of the Northern Ireland farmers who supply him with his top-end beef.
And after being named the Supreme Champion in the final of the Great Taste Awards, he added that while he was growing his Co Down business it will never be a "mass market product".
It is the second time that he has picked up the award, after winning in 2012.
Hannan Meats, based in Moira, sells a range of its Himalayan salt-aged beef across the globe - including to Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore.
Mr Hannan, who is originally from Co Kildare, won the award for a Glenarm Shorthorn rib of beef and said the timing was important as 2016 is Tourism NI's Year of Food and Drink.
"It's been unbelievable," he added. "When they say it is once in a lifetime, you expect it to be. We didn't even expect to win it, and we are absolutely thrilled that it has come to Northern Ireland during our Year of Food and Drink. It's an important thing.
"We worked hard at our Great Taste Awards this year because of the Year of Food. We see it as playing our part as part of a team in Northern Ireland.
"It's a lovely thing. We planted a tree 10 years ago and this year it has borne fruit. But we are only a cog in a wheel."
And he said he "lifted the trophy" on behalf of the farmers who supply him with his meat, adding that he is putting the finishing touches to another two salt chambers, which will be able to hold around 5,000 loins and ribs of beef.
Some of his latest top-end products include a rib of beef aged for more than a year.
Mr Hannan said "demand is always going to outstrip supply".
But he added he was not rushing the product.
"This is all about quality," he explained. "It's not about trying to dominate the world with beef. It's so perfect for the Great Taste Awards, because this thing is about quality."
And he said he could not rule out out-growing his existing Moira site. "We are doing all we can in our own way - the (new salt chambers) will allow us to keep 5,000 loins in circulation at all time," he added.
"We would like to grow it in line with our partners... we are going to do this methodically, and it's working very well. One big mistake would be pushing it too fast or too hard. It's like a family to us."
Hannan's Meat Merchant business, which is based in Moira, now turns over around £10m each year.
The company has also grown to around 40 staff.
Food NI chief executive Michelle Shirlow said: "Hannan Meats is a remarkably successful company which has now become the first ever in the history of this prestigious and influential competition to win the Supreme Award twice.
"Hannan Meats is an outstanding role model for other smaller food and drink companies of just what can be achieved from a commitment to excellence across a business.
"In addition to two Supreme Champion awards, Hannan Meats has now won more gold stars for its products than any other company in the UK and Ireland."