In an age when cheap and cheerful have become the most frequent resorts of too many purchasing departments in pubs up and down the country, these awards highlight the vital work of small, independent Irish food producers at the very time when proprietors’ support for home-grown industry is of the utmost importance.
This year those awarded for their high standards of excellence and their exceptional contribution to Ireland’s reputation as a top food-producing country were: Janet Drew for Janet’s County Fayre Beetroot Blush (Wicklow); Brian and Lindy O’Hara for Coopershill House Irish Venison (Sligo) and Pat O’Neill for O’Neill Foods’ Dry Cured Rashers, Bacon and Ham (Wexford). A special Environmental Award went to John Flahavan of Flahavan’s in Waterford and artisan baking innovator Derek O’Brien was honoured with the Guild’s seldom-proffered Lifetime Achievement award.
Now in its 17th year, the awards were again held in Michelin star restaurant L’Ecrivain where Sally Anne and Derry Clarke treated Ireland’s top food critics and leading industry figures to a special one-off menu, created using the winning produce. The menu was complemented by a selection of wines from Gleesons incorporating Gilbeys and Tipperary Natural Mineral Water.
At the awards, IFWG Chairperson Orla Broderick summed up the importance of getting leverage from a local producer: “Now more than ever, we need to be supporting our local producers, many of whom are suffering as a result of rising costs, cheap low-quality imports and the obvious fact that our economy has contracted significantly.
“If retailers fail to make room on the shelves for our indigenous producers and if we, as consumers, fail to support them, we will in a short space of time witness the demise of dozens of small and medium-sized producers who will simply be squeezed out of business. This will affect not only Ireland’s food-producing capabilities but will also have a significant impact on jobs.”