Almost 100 Northern Ireland food companies have scooped awards in one of the UK's biggest food competitions. The 99 companies secured an all-time record of 264 awards, including 11 in the highest three stars category, in the Great Taste Awards organised by the UK Guild of Fine Food.
Hannan Meats in Moira, winner of the Supreme Champion Award in 2012, gained seven three-star golds, the highest ranking in the awards, for its beef and bacon, dry-aged in the world's biggest Himalayan Salt Chamber.
The products to rate three stars go forward to the final stage of the awards in London next month, when the Supreme Champion Award will be announced along with other category winners in the Ambient Foods, Farmshop and Deli Signature Dish and the NI Regional Fork.
The Northern Ireland companies will also be in the running to be included in the Top 50 Foods.
Maud's Ice Cream of Carrickfergus, and Suki Teahouse and Thompson's Family Teas of Belfast were also among those firms to scoop three stars.
This year's awards included the first ever judging session to be held in Belfast. Overall, 405 judges including leading retail buyers, chefs and food writers were involved in the seven-week judging process that involved 10,000 individual products from the UK and Republic.
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said that Northern Ireland companies have achieved more three star golds than any other region of the UK and Republic.
"This highlights that Northern Ireland has become the UK's main food and drink production centre, a source of products that offer outstanding taste, wholesomeness and safety," she said.
"These Great Taste results, especially the new food ideas, are already attracting the attention of major UK retailers including Harrods – the sponsor of the Great Taste Awards – Selfridges and Fortnum and Mason.
"Invest Northern Ireland is already working closely with many of the award winners to help them to turn their achievements in the competition into business with key retailers in Britain and further afield."