The Good Food Ireland Awards have returned for the first time since 2013. The awards recognise excellence in areas of farming, food production, gastronomy and hospitality and are the only cross-sectorial food awards – representing a full spectrum of those involved in food and hospitality – in Ireland. The awards are being sponsored by Bord Bia, the Irish Farmers’ Association, Kerrygold, Tourism Ireland, ifac, FBD and the National Dairy Council.
Good Food Ireland is a business network which connects agri-food and tourism industries to help develop local food and drink as an economic driver. They also aim to have their logo as an easily recognised sign of quality, transparency and provenance among consumers. Good Food Ireland businesses must meet strict criteria, including through onsite inspections, in order to be listed members.
An independent expert panel has shortlisted the nominees for this year’s awards from an array of Good Food Ireland-approved businesses. The same panel will select the overall winners, following mystery inspections and assessments. The winners will be announced at a lunchtime event at The K Club in Co Kildare on Monday 17 April, with guest of honour Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Simon Coveney TD providing the opening address.
Margaret Jeffares is founder and managing director of Good Food Ireland. She spoke with Irish Country Living about why she feels the awards hold an important place in Ireland’s food, hospitality and agricultural industries.
“There are no other awards which are completely cross-sector and highlight everybody’s plight – it’s the whole farm-to-fork aspect,” she explained. “When Good Food Ireland was established in 2006, I think it was a bit ahead of its time. Now, the food scene has changed and global visitors are looking for authenticity and indigenous experiences when they come to Ireland. If we can drive visitors to places which support Irish farmers, producers and fishermen, it will not only provide that experience – it will provide growth to our tourism, hospitality and agricultural industries.”
The awards are a way to celebrate the businesses which meet the high standards of the Good Food Ireland brand. It’s also a way to recognise the connection between tourism, hospitality and food production as well as on-farm diversification, from which many food businesses are borne. As Margaret also farms, she is no stranger to the present and future challenges facing Irish agriculture.
“Living on a middle-sized farm, we’re always trying to diversify and add value,” she says. “Through our network, every day we make commercial introductions between chefs, hotels, restaurants and farmers. The awards are a celebration of that and the whole power of it. At the end of the day, how do you make it easy for consumers to support local? It’s through the power of collaboration.”
A lot has changed in 10 years, and with this in mind Good Food Ireland has made some changes to their awards format. They have added three ‘recognition’ awards and have increased the amount of producer awards to represent each sector, reflecting its growth over the years.
The public also has the opportunity to cast their votes for their favourite nominees across the island of Ireland with the introduction of their Food Lovers Choice Award. The shortlist will be drawn from the finalists in all other categories and online voting has begun as of 7 March. It will remain open until Monday, 20 March.
“We’re overwhelmed by the amount of entries – it only just opened,” Margaret laughs. “Social media has really taken off since we last did the awards, and it’s been amazing.”
The three new awards being presented are: Outstanding Contribution to Food Production, Contribution to Irish Food and Drink Internationally and their Lifetime Achievement Award. They also have a Supreme Award, which is chosen from all of the food producer categories.
“The Outstanding Contribution to Food Production award was created to acknowledge primary producers,” Margaret explains. “I don’t think farmers are understood or recognised enough in the country and we as consumers take our food for granted.”
For the Contribution to Irish Food and Drink Internationally, the judging panel are looking at individuals who are buying, using and representing Irish produce in other countries.
Originally, there was only one producer award, but Margaret says there was no way they could have chosen one winner from the breadth and quality of the Irish producers we see today.“It’s important for us that we come up with an equal balance across our awards, so yes, our producer awards are all categorised. With the growth in each sector, you couldn’t have just one producer award.”
You can vote for your favourite shortlisted food businesses at goodfoodireland.ie until 20 March