Blas na hÉireann 2019 entries now open – the all-island food awards that  recognise the very best Irish food and drink products, and the passionate people behind them

Blas na hÉireann 2019 entries now open – the all-island food awards that recognise the very best Irish food and drink products, and the passionate people behind them

It’s the 12th 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. Entries are now open to producers across all 44 categories with the early bird discounted rate for entries running until 30th April. Entries will finally close on June 15th.

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. Cork based producer, Rob Horgan of Velo Coffee said, “Since winning at Blas, Velo Tandem is now sought after as award-winning coffee. We were inundated with people looking for it when we were waiting for our new packaging to arrive. Having independent verification of the quality of our product is invaluable to us as a small producer.”

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, “Tourists and overseas visitors recognise the value of a prestigious recognised national award and this has increased sales 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.”

“Blas na hÉireann awards have a quantifiable impact on any winner’s bottom line,” says Artie Clifford, Chairperson and founder of Blas na hÉireann, “whether it’s raising the profile of a producer’s product, or getting the attention of chefs, retailers or the general food-loving public. 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 or onto a restaurant menu. It’s also always a huge boost for an individual producer, an appreciation for all their hard work and a moment to savour their achievements in a busy and often pressurised working life. The Blas na hÉireann awards event in Dingle each year has become an unmissable shop window for the general public, media and trade to meet, discover and appreciate some of the country’s best producers but, even more importantly, it has become an opportunity for this authentic Irish food community to come together and celebrate their successes.”

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.

“In this our 12th year of the Blas na hÉireann awards, our sector is more innovative and exciting than ever,” says Artie Clifford, Chairperson and founder of Blas na hÉireann. “Our challenge is to assist authentic small 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 all over the country and we are looking forward to another exceptional year for Blas na hÉireann 2019.”

Entries for Blas na hÉireann 2019 received online before the 30th of April are at the discounted early bird fee of €60 per entry (ex VAT). The full entry fee, applicable from 1st May to 15th June is €75 per entry (ex VAT).

http://www.irishfoodawards.com

New investment scheme to benefit up to 62 towns

New investment scheme to benefit up to 62 towns

Fáilte Ireland will invest €15.5million through the local authorities to boost the attractiveness and tourism appeal of up to 62 towns across the country.

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin T.D., made the announcement today at an event in Dublin where officials from all local authorities have gathered to be briefed on the new investment scheme.

The Fáilte Ireland scheme is part of the National Tourism Development Authority’s work to drive a better regional spread of overseas and domestic visitors and spend.

Through the scheme, every local authority in the country will be able to bid for funding of between €250,000 and €500,000 to develop up to two towns in their area which have the potential to become a ‘destination town’ for tourists.

With Fáilte Ireland research consistently showing that attractive towns and cities are key motivators for overseas holidaymakers coming to Ireland, the new scheme will provide funding to Councils to enhance public spaces such as squares, streetscapes and markets in a way that will engage tourists and enhance their experience in key towns.

This could include spaces for food and craft markets, areas for town centre events, public art displays as well as orientation and signage to help visitors explore a town’s local heritage.

The ‘destination towns’ will need to demonstrate their capacity and appeal to attract more international visitors to stay overnight – a key driver of spend. To be successful in their funding submissions, Councils will be expected to identify towns that have:

  • At least one visitor attraction of scale that can drive tourism demand.
  • A range of things to see and do for two days – A town that hopes to attract overnight visitors needs to offer a variety of attractions, activities and entertainment options which can keep tourists engaged for more than 11 hours a day, including three hours in the evening.
  • A selection of accommodation – Towns will need accommodation stock of at least 300 beds to become a seasonal destination town (and 1,000 beds to operate as a year-round destination) or be a town that has the potential to grow its bedstock in the future.
  • A range of food offerings to meet the visitor needs including a range of options for light snacks, tea/coffee, lunch and dinner.

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin T.D., said:
“I’m delighted to unveil Fáilte Ireland’s new investment scheme, which will provide a significant boost for towns across the country with untapped tourism potential. This scheme is a great opportunity for towns which aren’t fully active in the tourism industry to look at how their local economy can benefit from increased tourism activity as well as the physical development the scheme will bring. I am pleased to see Fáilte Ireland working closely with local communities, councils and businesses to create a better regional spread of visitors and revenue, and today’s funding announcement marks a real step-change in the way we look at towns as drivers of tourism.”

In order to support communities and Local Authorities with their applications, Fáilte Ireland has established Development Guidelines for Tourism Destination Towns to provide a framework for applications and set out the key drivers of what makes a town appealing to the international tourist.
These guidelines are intended as a practical aid to Local Authorities, Chambers of Commerce, LEADER Programme Local Action Groups and other business and community groups who consider their town to either be a tourism destination town or have the potential to develop as one. They can also be used by smaller towns and villages with the potential to further develop as day trip destinations.

Fáilte Ireland’s CEO Paul Kelly said:
“The importance of tourism as an economic driver and source of employment cannot be underestimated. It is a unique industry in terms of its ability to spur local job creation and sustain rural communities. That is why, at Fáilte Ireland, everything we do is underpinned by two strategic pillars – spreading tourism across a wider geography and creating a broader tourism season so businesses can remain open for longer. We look for every opportunity to expand the number of appealing destinations that offer compelling visitor experiences with the potential to drive visitors across the regions.  Our new investment scheme will provide local authorities with a springboard to develop towns with untapped potential from transit zones to destinations where visitors want to stay longer and experience local culture.”

The scheme will officially open in April for applications from Local Authorities and will close in September. Fáilte Ireland’s regional teams will work with each Local Authority to identify towns in every county which have the potential to grow their tourism economy. They will then assess the development need using the Destination Town Framework unveiled today, as well as the town’s potential to drive a greater regional and seasonal spread of tourism.

Welcoming the scheme, Ann Doherty, Chair of the County and City Management Association EECC Committee added:
“The concept behind Destination Towns goes to the heart of what the local authorities are about: making great places to live, work and visit. The initiative provides a really practical focus to help us to plan strategically for the infrastructure, attractions and public realm improvements that will appeal to visitors and unlock or enhance our tourism offering, including in collaboration with local business and communities.”

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