Clare food producers are being invited to submit their entries for Blás na hÉireann 2021, which is the largest blind-tasted food awards in Ireland.
The awards were founded 14 years ago, but this year has seen the emphasis on the need to celebrate and support Irish food producers after the difficulties presented by Covid-19.
Two Clare producers were nominated in 2020, with Clonlara’s Kathy McAndrew Wallace who makes chutneys from home grown produce in her kitchen, and Michael Curran of East Clare Apiaries in Clooney among those who were recognised for their produce.
Chairman of Blas na hÉireann Artie Clifford outlined that the last 12 months have been difficult to navigate.
“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”, he stated.
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.
Clifford stated that the importance of being recognised by the brand of Blás is as strong as ever.
“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” he explained.