Moira meat merchant smashes records with 59 gourmet stars
Hannan Meats in Co Down has become the best performer ever in a high-end, UK-wide competition for food quality.
The Moira business, famed for its salt-aged Himalayan beef, this week won a record haul of 59 stars from the Guild of Fine Food. Winning products included Hannan's sugar-pit beef brisket and Glenarm shorthorn four rib roast.
Hannan Meats products were among 13 from eight Northern Ireland firms to win the top prize of three gold stars from the Guild. In total, 212 products from here won stars. Abernethy Butter, Thompson's Family Teas and Dale Farm were among the others who secured the top, three star badge of quality.
To be awarded three stars requires the unanimous approval - following a blind taste test - of a panel of 40 judges, including TV chef and author Valentine Warner and MasterChef judge Charles Campion.
Allison Abernethy, who runs Abernethy Butter with husband Will from their home in Dromore, Co Down, said the three-star win for their smoked butter was an honour. "It really makes a huge difference when we are selling our produce to have this type award - especially when you consider that only 141 producers out of 10,000 entrants get three stars."
The couple's handmade butters, which come in three flavours, are already stocked in high-end London grocer Fortnum & Mason. Mrs Abernethy revealed that another two top names in retail in the capital are soon to sell their products.
And boutique tea house Suki Tea in Belfast won three stars for two of its products - an orange blossom and oolong tea, and its Ayurvedic tea, made of Indian spices. Esme Porter, sales and marketing executive, said the win was important. "It's so good for promoting the brands and encouraging sales, as it's something the consumer seems to look for."
And Peter Hannan, owner of Hannan Meats in Moira, Co Down, said: "We had a wonderful result out of Great Taste with four sets of three stars, and a total of 59 stars for 36 products."
After big wins in 2013 and 2014, he'd decided to take a break from the competition in 2015.
But the Kildare man said he'd wished to return this year to celebrate Northern Ireland's Year of Food and Drink - an initiative led by Tourism NI to highlight the province's food.
His famous Himalayan salt-aged beef is another past three-star winner, while his guanciale, a pork cheek product, earned him the title of Supreme Champion from the Guild of Fine Food in 2012. Corned beef entered by George McCartney of McCartney's Butchers in Moira secured him the same title a year earlier.
Thompson's Family Teas also won the top accolade of three stars for its Punjana and Thompson's Irish Breakfast tea bags. The company said Punjana tea bags had now won more Great Taste Awards than any other blended teabag in the UK and Republic of Ireland over the past decade. The tea is blended by cousins Ross and David Thompson in Belfast. Ross Thompson said: "I feel that with this latest endorsement, we have come one giant step closer to our ultimate goal of blending the perfect everyday cuppa."
Economy Minister Simon Hamilton said: "We have a dynamic and progressive food and drink industry and the results of the 2016 UK Great Taste Awards will help to consolidate Northern Ireland's growing reputation for excellence in food and drink production.
"In keeping with our Year of Food and Drink celebration, a record number of local companies submitted produce this year and 212 products have been duly rewarded with this valuable independent validation of taste and quality."
He added: "I would like to congratulate all of those who have been recognised for their hard work and dedication - in particular, the eight triple-gold star award winners, Clandeboye Estate, Suki Teahouse, Dale Farm, Rooney Fish, Kearney Cheese Company, Hannan Meats, Thompson Family Teas and Abernethy Butter."
He also congratulated Hannan Meats for its "record-breaking achievements".