Supermarkets were among the big winners at this year’s Blas na hÉireann Irish Food Awards, with own-brand products vying for awards with well-known brands. Jenny Whelan reports.
Now in its eighth year, Blas na hÉireann, the Irish Food Awards, is the biggest competition for Irish products on the island of Ireland. More than 2,500 items were entered into this year’s competition, in a bid to win gold, silver and bronze awards in over 90 food and drink categories.
The awards are presented following the biggest blind tasting of products in the country. The criteria on which the products are judged, as well as the judging system, are developed by Blas na hÉireann in partnership with the Food Science Dept of UCC.
In terms of this year’s big winners, SuperValu broke its record for Blas na hÉireann awards this year, winning 25 for its own-brand range and taking gold for seven products supplied by Irish producers. These included SuperValu Premium Irish Barbecue Ham Half and SuperValu Signature Tastes Corned Beef, both supplied by O’Brien’s Fine Foods, as well as SuperValu Signature Tastes Potato Gratin, made by Ballymaguire Foods.
Blas na hÉireann 2015 was also a successful event for Aldi’s own-brand suppliers, of which seven earned gold awards. Aldi’s Butcher’s Selection Lamb Rack won a gold award, while its ‘Secret Chef’ Lamb Shoulder Rack Topped with a Mint & Herb Crumb and Specially Selected Premium Lamb Rack both won silver medals. All are supplied by Irish Country Meats.
Aldi’s other gold-winning products included its Mediterranean Salad Bowl and Mature Cheddar, as well as its Dark Orange Irish Marmalade and Specially Selected Caramelised Red Onion Relish – both made by Folláin – as well as its Alcafé Espresso Whole Bean and Aldi’s Porridge Pots Golden Syrup.
Lidl also enjoyed success for many of its own-brand products, with five taking gold, and a total of 16 winning awards. In its bakery offering, Lidl’s Low GI Multiseed Cob and Connell Bakery Buttermilk Pancakes won gold awards, as did Inisvale Irish Hereford Fillet Steaks, Lidl’s Deluxe Sparkling Sicilian Lemonade, and Morning Fresh Whipped Cream.
Another retailer with its own successful supplier-development programme is Tesco, and while the retailer didn’t win any gold medals for its own-brand range (although its Tesco Finest Christmas Pudding Six Months Matured took silver, as did the Tesco Greek-Style and Low-Fat Greek-Style Natural Yoghurts), its 2015 local and national Taste Bud participants were well represented throughout the competition.
Dunnes Stores’ own branded ranges also performed well in this year’s Blas na hÉireann, with the following winning gold awards: Dunnes Stores Simply Better Fresh Irish Corn-Fed Chicken, supplied by Manor Farm; Dunnes Stores Simply Better Lemon & Lime Curd Yogurt 150g, made by Irish Yogurts; Dunnes Stores Italian Chocolate Bread, made by La Boulangerie des Gourmets; and Simply Better 12-Month Matured Luxury Irish Christmas Pudding, by Seerys Heatherfield Ltd.
Of course, what makes Blas na hÉireann such a respected competition are the suppliers themselves, and Checkout spoke to a few of them to uncover the stories behind their success.
Mr Crumb: Take A Star To Dinner This Christmas
As one of Ireland’s leading breadcrumb and stuffing brands, Mr Crumb is a must-have for your customers this Christmas. This festive season, Mr Crumb will be running an extensive consumer marketing campaign on national radio and in print to support the category.
Handmade in small batches in Finea, Co. Westmeath, the multi-award-winning range includes Sage & Onion 225g, Garlic & Herb 225g, Lemon & Thyme 100g, and Apple & Apricot 225g varieties. Mr Crumb has also launched Gluten-Free Breadcrumbs 200g and Gluten-Free Sage & Onion Stuffing 200g varieties, which have received great feedback. All products are made using natural ingredients and heat in their own tray, taking just 2.5 minutes in the microwave or 15 minutes in the oven.
Mr Crumb fresh breadcrumbs are ideal for the consumer looking to make his/her own stuffing or Christmas pudding this festive season, and come in both 200g and 400g packs. Mr Crumb has also secured a contract to produce a new range of 100g flavoured butter logs for a leading multiple in the UK and Ireland. The range includes Garlic & Herb, Red Chilli, Three Peppercorn, and Chocolate Chip & Maple Syrup, which will be stocked in over 600 stores.
Mr Crumb-branded products are available through Musgrave, Tesco, Dunnes Stores and BWG.
The Cool Bean Company
The Cool Bean Company was founded by Sarah O’Connor and Isolde Johnson in 2013, with the aim of creating no-fuss, no-nonsense, superhero food. They started out selling on the music-festival circuit before launching in the retail market.
Sarah and Isolde completed the SuperValu Food Academy programme and launched their signature product, Cool Beans, in Ireland in September 2014. It has since grown rapidly to be stocked nationwide with SuperValu. In addition, Cool Beans has also just launched into the UK retail market with Waitrose.
Cool Beans is a tasty, healthy and convenient cannellini bean meal in a pot. It comes in three delicious flavours: Original Tomato, Smokey Paprika, and the award-winning Hot Chilli, and can be found in the chilled section of the supermarket.
Cool Beans offers consumers a healthy alternative to a ready meal that is packed full of protein and fibre, low in fat, salt and calories, gluten-free, and quick and easy to make. Cool Beans is perfect as a main for one on toast, mashed or in a baked potato, or as a side or sauce for the whole family over fish, meat or pasta. Winning silver at the Blas na hÉireann Awards for Chilli Cool Beans was huge validation and a testament to the quality of the product.
Rafferty’s Fine Foods
Rafferty’s Fine Foods of Blackrock, Co. Louth, produces a range of high-quality artisan products, including flavoured sea-salt flakes, marinades, infused oils and seasonal products. The range is 100% natural and gluten-free, with no artificial colours, flavourings or preservatives. All products are hand-blended, guaranteeing a high-quality, authentic taste.
The company’s flavoured sea-salt flakes are the perfect ingredient to enhance your home-cooked meals. Use during cooking or as a finishing salt to add restaurant-quality flavour to your foods. The range of flavours includes Lemon & Lime, Rosemary & Mint, Garlic, Garlic & Chilli, Red Wine, Sriracha and Schezuan.
Its very popular Garlic & Chilli Oil is an olive-oil-based product, rich and warm in colour with flakes of garlic and chilli, adding exciting heat and flavour to your meals. A versatile product with many uses, e.g. in cooking poultry, meats, game and seafood, or simply drizzled on pizza or bruschetta. It’s also delicious as a dipping oil with crispy bread, or ideal as a salad dressing.
Rafferty’s Stir-Fry Marinade, another versatile product, is perfect for marinating chicken, beef, pork, prawns or duck, and ensures your stir-fry or roast meats are infused with authentic flavour. Perfect for marinating barbecue meats or adding flavour to your stir-fried or roasted vegetables, and proving a firm favourite with vegetarians.
Rafferty’s Fine Foods, still a young company, has done extremely well at the Irish Foods Awards, winning gold for its Garlic & Chilli Sea-Salt Flakes at the 2015 Blas na hÉireann Awards, where its Garlic & Chilli Oil was also named as a finalist, and being named as a finalist at the 2014 Blas na hÉireann awards for its Lemon & Lime Sea-Salt Flakes.
“To receive such an accreditation from the Irish Food Awards for our products is absolutely incredible for us as a small family business. We are honoured to be chosen and acknowledged by the Irish Food Awards for producing high-quality-tasting products,” commented Declan Rafferty, the company’s founder.
Having also won awards at the Guild of Fine Foods further acknowledges the high-quality taste of products produced by this emerging business.
Rafferty’s Fine Foods’ journey to date has been an exciting one, and the company is extremely grateful to the SuperValu Food Academy. Plans are in place to examine international markets next year – definitely a company to be watched. Its flavoured sea-salt flakes, oil and marinade are available in SuperValu stores.
For more information, visit www.raffertysfinefoods.ie.