FARMING: Cork food producers can enter “Blas na hÉireann, the Irish Food Awards”

1 April 2020
By Mary Bermingham

With 46 winners from Cork announced at the awards in 2019 – the upcoming 2020 awards year will certainly be of interest to Cork food producers

Despite the current shutdown of life, in general, it is great to see that the Blas na hÉireann 2020 entries are now open – the all-island food awards that recognise the very best Irish food and drink products, and the passionate people making them

It’s the 13th year of Blas na hÉireann, the Irish Food Awards, the largest blind-tasted food awards on the island of Ireland, designed to recognise and celebrate the very best Irish food and drink. Entry to producers across all categories of food and drink are now open with the early bird discounted rate for entries running until 8th April, before entries finally close on 25th May.

“In these unprecedented times, the emphasis on shopping local to support small, independent producers has never been so important,” says Artie Clifford, Chairperson and founder of Blas na hÉireann. “For some, their business has increased and for others, they are working hard to adapt to these challenging and testing times to bring their products to a new audience. I have no doubt that the Irish food family will pull together to get through this crisis and continue to fly the flag for the best the country has to offer. We understand this is a difficult situation for all and encourage producers to use this time to prepare for the awards in October.”

“We know first-hand that the Blas na hÉireann awards have a significant impact on any winner’s bottom line, whether it’s raising the profile of a producer’s product, or getting the attention of chefs, retailers or general food lovers. The independent endorsement of a Blas award is a recognised quality guarantee that can help get a product onto the shelves of a particular retailer. The Blas na hÉireann awards event in Dingle each year has become an unmissable event allowing the general public, media and trade to meet, discover and appreciate some of the country’s best producers but, more importantly, it has become an opportunity for the Irish food community to come together and celebrate their successes – and this year, we hope it will be one hell of a celebration!”

Winners are always the competition’s best ambassadors, something to which over a decade’s worth of small producers, farmers, growers, bakers and artisan food makers who have won a Blas award and proudly put the winner’s sticker on their product can attest. Research has shown that the Blas accreditation has the highest recognition among Irish consumers and having the award logo on products encourages shoppers to buy – it is a recognised guarantee of a top quality Irish product.

A survey of over 100 past winners showed that 81% had seen an increase in sales after displaying the Blas na hÉireann sticker with 28% of those surveyed saying that they saw an increase in sales of over 20%. In the survey many winners noted the credibility that the awards gave to their products with one saying, “Since being awarded at Blas, we have seen our sales increase significantly online and in high profile visitor locations throughout Ireland and abroad.” Another winner surveyed found that a Blas award helped to build relationships with their customers, “I have found that the Blas Award has been great for communicating with my customers in the shop. They really recognise the value of the award and have faith in it and the other products which I stock which have the award logo on their packaging.”

These are exceptionally rigorously-judged awards, as Blas na hÉireann use an innovative blind-tasting judging system developed by Blas with the Food Science Dept of UCC and the University of Copenhagen that is now recognised as an industry gold standard worldwide. Products entered are blind-tasted, meaning that all packaging and identifying features are removed from products before being presented for judging, creating a level playing field for products from both large and small producers. Judges come from a range of food backgrounds from chefs to restaurateurs, academics, journalists, authors, food champions, caterers and enthusiastic home cooks.

The founding mission of Blas – establishing quality benchmarks for Irish produce on a level playing field – is strictly adhered to and measurably applied.

A marking sheet

“In this our 13th year of the Blas na hÉireann awards, our sector continues to become more innovative and exciting than ever,” says Artie Clifford, Chairperson and founder of Blas na hÉireann. “We aim to assist Irish producers to tell their stories by marking them out as special, and worth exploring. Winning a Blas award has been shown to work for our previous winners in bringing them to the attention of food-lovers both at home and abroad and we are looking forward to doing it all again for Blas na hÉireann 2020.”

Entries for Blas na hÉireann 2020 received online between 17th March and 8th of April are at the discounted early bird fee of €60 per entry (ex VAT). The full entry fee, applicable from 9th April to 25thMay is €75 per entry (ex VAT).

Facts & Figures

Often dubbed the Oscars of Irish food, Blas na hÉireann, the Irish Food Awards, are the largest food awards on the island, open to all 32 counties, with judging taking place during June and July, finalists notified in August, and finalist judging in Dingle, the home of the awards, in October. With workshops and masterclasses in Dingle, final Blas na hÉireann 2020 awards will be presented alongside producer networking events on 2nd & 3rd October during the Dingle Food Festival, always an unmissable event for food lovers.

Blas na hEireann 2020 Categories

1. Bacon products a) Rasher b) Other bacon products

2. Beef (Value added) a) Fillet b) Sirloin/Striploin c) Ribeye d) Burger Style e) Roast f) Bone in g) Other

3. Cold Meats, Cured Meat, Charcuterie a) Beef b) Ham c) Poultry d)Other

4. Lamb (Value added) a) Lamb Prepared b) Lamb

5. Other Meats (Value Added)

6. Pork (Value added)

7. Poultry (Value added) a) Chicken b) Chicken (Prepared) c) Duck & Other Poultry d) Turkey

8. Puddings a) Black pudding b) White pudding

9. Sausages a) Breakfast sausages b) Flavoured sausages c) Other Meat sausages

10. Dairy a) Butter b) Butter (Flavoured) c) Cream d) Cream(Fermented) e) Milk f) Milk (Other) g) Yoghurt (Flavoured) h)Yoghurt (Plain)

11. Ice Cream & Sorbets a) IceCream b) Sorbets c) Frozen Yoghurts

12. Cheese a) Blue b) Goats c) Hard d) Hard (Added Flavour) e) Soft & Semi Soft

13. Seafood Products a) Cold Smoked b) Hot Smoked c) Prepared Fish d) Prepared Shellfish

14. Terrines/ Pates a) Meat b) Seafood c) Vegetarian

15. Savoury Pies/ Quiche

16. Soups & Chowders a) Soups (Meat) & Chowders b) Soups – Vegetable

17. Ready Meals & Prepared Foods (Hot) a) Fish b) Meat c) Sausage Rolls d) Stuffing e) Dough Based f) Vegetarian g) Potato

18. Ready Meals & Prepared Foods (Cold) a) Fish b) Meat c) Vegetarian

19. Baby Food & Childrens Foods

20. Bread a) Craft Bakers Soda Bread b) Craft Bakers Yeast Bread c) Sourdough

21. d) Packaged White Bread e) Packaged Bread (Not White)

22. Traditional Irish Barm (Yeast) Brack

23. Sweet Dough Goods (Including Teabrack & Sweet Buns)

24. Morning Baked Goods (Including Baps, Teacakes & Scones)

25. Continental Style Breads (Including Brioche, Ciabatta, Focaccia, Bagels)

26. Pastries & Tarts a) Pastries (Inc Danish, Croissant, Pain Au Chocolate) b) Tarts

27. Dietary Specific Foods a) Dietary Specific Bread b) Dietary Specific Gluten Free Products & Ingredients c) Dietary Specific Gluten Free Baked Goods d) Dietary Specific – Other (Certification to verify product claim required)

28. Ready Mix Cakes & Breads a) Breads & Other Savoury Ready Mix b) Cakes & Other Sweet Ready Mix

29. Puddings & Desserts

30. Cakes a) Chocolate b) Other c) Chocolate Biscuit

31. Christmas Cakes & Puddings a) Christmas Cakes, Pies, Crumbles, Other b) Christmas Puddings

32. Biscuits/ Snacks Sweet a) Biscuits b) Other sweet snacks c) Popcorn Sweet

33. Chocolate a) Bars b) Collections c) Individual Chocolates

34. Confectionery

35. Breakfast Cereal a) Granola b) Muesli c) Porridge & Cereals

36. Savoury Sauces, Condiments & Pantry a) Chutney b) Dressings c) Hummus d) Jellies e) Mustard f) Oils g) Oils Flavoured h) Pesto i) Pickle j) Relish k) Salt l) Salt Flavoured m) Savoury Sauces & Dips (Egg Based) n) Savoury Sauces (Tomato Based) o) Savoury Sauces (Other) p) Seasonings q) Vinegars

37. Sweet Sauces, Preserves & Pantry a) Conserve b) Honey c) Marmalade d) Preserve e) Sweet Spreads f) Sweet sauces & Dips

38. Savoury Snacks a) Crisps b) Popcorn c) Other

39. Hot Beverages a) Coffee b) Tea c) Other Hot Drinks

40. Non alcoholic Drinks a) Carbonated b) Cordials c) Fruit based d) Vegetable based

41. Spirits & Liqueurs a) Dark Spirits & Liqueurs b) White Spirits & Liqueurs

42. Beers a) Ale b) Beer & Lager c) Stout

43. Ciders a) Medium/Dry b) Sweet c) Special (such as sparkling)

44. Chef’s Larder (Includes subcategory for Eggs) This should be an ingredients, specialist product or recipe staple which a chef would find to be a valuable part of their larder. This can include, but is not exclusive to catering/food service products

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