Category: Archive

Irish offerings tickle fancy at food convention

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Margaret M Johnson

Irish food history was made last week at the annual Summer International Fancy Food Show when companies from Northern Ireland and the Republic exhibited together for the first time under the banner "Ireland-The Food Island."

This joint participation between Bord Bia/Irish Food Board and Trade International Northern Ireland, the trade and export arm of the Industrial Development Board, marked the first time that companies from both parts of the island have participated in an international food event. This initiative reflects the increasing cooperation between North and South and is part of a joint food-marketing program that links Irish food products with U.S. retailers.

Food companies from Northern Ireland and the Republilc displayed a variety of Irish specialty foods including handmade chocolates and confectionery, specialty cheeses, Irish bacon and sausages, farm-raised venison, coffee, breads, and mineral water. The Irish Dairy Board U.S.A., Crystal Food Import Corporation, a leading importer of Irish cheeses, Bewley Irish Imports, and Scandia DPI, Irish food importers, also exhibited in booths at other locations throughout New York City’s Javits Convention Center.

Chief Executives of both food promotion bodies were generally delighted with the first-ever joint effort.

"The specialty food market is growing in significance in the U.S., and a number of leading Irish companies have targeted this market as an important outlet," said Michael Duffy of Bord Bia/Irish Food Board. "Participation at the Fancy Food Show reflects the international nature of our business and we believe that Ireland has unique products to offer in this exciting marketplace."

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Food and beverage exports to the United States from both Northern Ireland and the Republic amounted to over $250 million in 1999, with specialty food products showing the highest annual growth rate.

"Food and drink is Ireland’s largest indigenous sector, and our companies, both North and South, are delighted to be working together to expand sales of food and drink in the world’s most significant marketplace for such products," the IDB’s Bruce Robinson said.

Among the more familiar names in Irish food at the show were Dairygold U.S.A., the exclusive importers of Galtee and Shannon Traditional brands of Irish bacon, sausage, and savory breakfast puddings — the essential ingredients in an Irish breakfast — and the Irish Dairy Board U.S.A., importers of Dubliner, Kerrygold Swiss and Vintage Cheddar Cheese, and Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter.

On the sweet side, Lily O’Brien’s Chocolates, famous for their delicious centers surrounded by crispy chocolate shells, offered plenty of samples from their "collections," which include truffles, mints, and fruit fillings. Butlers Handmade Chocolates launched a new range of products at the show, including their new Café Selection of truffles, pralines, and caramels; Butlers Truffles, featuring the best of Irish liquors; and Irish Chocolate Bars. Bewley’s of Ireland, which has had a wide range of country preserves, handmade confectionery, and traditional fruit cakes available in specialty food stores for some time, launched a new Irish Breakfast Tea.

New faces from Northern Ireland included Fivemiletown Creamery, a dairy farmer cooperative manufacturing specialty cheeses — Cheddar and Oakwood Smoked Cheddar; Ballyblue, a soft blue cheese; Ballybrie, a full cream Brie; Ballyoak, a smoked Brie; and Cooneen, a soft mold goats’ cheese — and the Newry-based Irwin’s Bakery, whose reputation for baking traditional style Irish breads extends back to 1912. Thanks to state-of-the-art techniques, freshly baked breads and fruit cakes from Irwin’s are now available in the U.S., along with a range of products packaged under the McCann’s label. Treats like Irwin’s Soda Farls, Brown Soda Bread, Fruited Soda Bread, Barm Brack, and Potato Farls are baked in Northern Ireland using the original recipes and then shipped frozen to the U.S. Irwin’s launched its complete range of "Irish Specialty Breads" at the show. Also new to the show was the Classic Mineral Water Co. of Lurgan, which bottles a full line of Irish spring flavored waters.

For the snack-food lover, Largo Food Exports also debuted a new product — Hunky Dorys Irish Potato Snacks, extra thin, crispy potato strips in three flavors (spicy ketchup, salted, and salt and vinegar) — which complement its already popular range of crisps, Irish fries, corn snacks, and popcorn.

And for the true connoiseur of fine food products, the Finnebrogue Venison Company was represented by owner Denis Lynn of Downpatrick, whose venison is specially selected from his prime herd of over 2,000 deer. Finnebrogue currently supplies the top restaurants in Europe with all cuts of lean, tender venison, and is considered to be the venison "specialist" of Ireland. With Piccinini Brothers serving as its New York distributor, expect to see Finnebrogue in local restaurants shortly.

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