Food Heartland secures ABC Council two top awards at NI Food & Drink Awards

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NI Year of Food & Drink Awards at the Culloden Hotel.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s pioneering Food Heartland initiative was named overall winner in two top categories at the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Awards on Thursday, beating stiff competition for the coveted accolades.

The borough is now officially acknowledged as the Food Heartland of Northern Ireland, due to the significance of food and drink production and high quality places to eat and drink. The Food Heartland initiative, secured top billing in the ‘Best Food Story’ and the ‘Roots to Market’ categories. Hotly contested, these awards recognised the genuine partnership working and collaboration between council, local producers, chefs, and stakeholders who have worked together to brand the borough and champion local food and drink.

Food Heartland was also highly commended for the ‘Destination Delicious’ award, putting the borough firmly on the map as a top foodie destination.

The winners were selected by an esteemed panel of judges – Professor Una McMahon Beattie of Ulster University, food critics Charles Campion and Georgina Campbell, and Belfast Telegraph food writer Joris Minne.

Nicola Wilson, Head of Economic Development for ABC Council, said;

“We are thrilled to be officially recognised for the collaborative effort, commitment and passion which the Food Heartland initiative and brand has developed. The Food Heartland Forums, provide ground-breaking platforms for local producers, businesses, and suppliers to work within their communities and with council to champion the fantastic spectrum of food quality in the area.

“Together the partnership has developed a strong home-grown story which has its heart our passionate producers & quality creators, who know good food and believe in the greater good of working together. The Food Heartland initiative works with more than 250 local food production and hospitality businesses and strategic partners including Food NI. The unique and imaginative initiative has allowed us to make the most of the Year of Food & Drink, but more importantly it has developed genuine partnerships to ensure a lasting legacy. I thank everyone for their support.”

The Food Heartland awards recognised the Council’s proactive approach to developing strong and positive working partnerships with local producers and hospitality providers to strengthen the food message and champion the world class quality of its produce, including the global, protected status of its famous Armagh Bramley Apple and Lough Neagh Eel.

Held at the Culloden Hotel, the awards celebrated successful collaborations and top efforts being made to promote Northern Ireland’s hospitality, tourism, and food and drink production.

The Best Food Story award acknowledged the authentic story of how together the Food Heartland Forums have successfully collaborated to brand the area The Food Heartland of NI – a borough, bursting with a rich heritage of food & drink production and outstanding places to eat & drink.

The Roots to Market award acknowledged the pioneering steps taking by ABC Council in engaging and collaborating with local producers, chefs, hospitality providers and strategic partners to grow and strengthen the area as an outstanding area of food and drink.

Michelle Shirlow, Chief Executive of Food NI, said:

“The Year of Food and Drink has provided Northern Ireland with an exciting model for the future as we continue to strengthen our position on the world stage as a destination for food lovers and as an exporter of the highest quality produce across the globe.

“The standard of entries for these inaugural Food and Drink Awards across the categories was exceptionally high and it is encouraging to see the passion and drive in the submissions. On behalf of Food NI, my heartfelt congratulations to all the winners and I cannot wait to see what these awards and initiatives across Northern Ireland will inspire the industry and sector to do next.”

For more information, please visit www.foodheartland.com.