It’s 14 years since Blas na hÉireann, the Irish food awards, were founded, and the value and importance of celebrating and supporting our Irish producers has never been greater. Entries are now open to producers all across the country for Blas na hÉireann 2021, with the very best in Irish food and drink being judged in the largest blind-tasted food awards on the island.
The awards seek to reward the very best, not just in their category, but to highlight the best of local as well, including an award for Best in Limerick which is supported by LEO Limerick.
Mike Cantwell, Head of LEO Limerick and Innovate Limerick said: “LEO Limerick is delighted to support the Blas na hÉireann awards which highlight the high quality of Irish produce and important role of Irish food producers in creating jobs to support our economy.
“We work with local producers across the food sector to offer incubation spaces, training and supports and would encourage local businesses to take part in this important opportunity to promote their products and reach a wider market."
Blas na hÉireann Chairperson Artie Clifford said: “The last 12 months have been like no other in the history of Blas na hÉireann. We could never have imagined what lay ahead when we launched last year’s awards. It is testament to our team, our partners in UCC, IT Tralee and TU Dublin, our sponsors, the resilience and innovation of our amazing producers and our wider Blas community that we were able to announce our 2020 winners in a virtual celebration last October.
“It is with this experience under our belt that we can confidently launch Blas 2021 – knowing that no matter what, we will celebrate the very finest Irish food and drink in the best way possible.”
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. Last year, these systems were successfully moved from the campus in UCC to Dingle to work within constraints of lockdown and travel restrictions.
“2020 was an incredibly difficult year,” added Artie Clifford. “With businesses pushed to the brink, the closure of the hospitality sector left many producers without some of their key accounts. However, with many producers pivoting their business quickly and the general public getting far more interested in the quality of the food in their basket and on their plate, there were deep ties made between communities and their local producers. Our goal is to build on this and ensure that when restaurants reopen, the ties made between the public and these products remains.
"We know that having a Blas sticker on a product makes a difference to a producer’s bottom line. Our 2020 winner of Best New Product, Kerry Kefir, increased sales by 50% following the awards and is now stocked in six SuperValu stores and six independent retailers. We are passionate about Irish food and drink and supporting the independent producers as they build their business and we’re looking forward to another successful year of Blas na hÉireann doing just that.”
So whether a new business has flourished over the past 12 months or an existing product is being used in a brand new way, a Blas na hÉireann gold stamp of approval could see it reach new heights and, most importantly, new customers.
Entries for Blas na hÉireann 2021 are now open and will close on Friday 28 May. Log on to Irish Food Awards for more details.