6 Thing’s I’ve Learned… a few words from Artie

Artie Clifford - Cropped (1)A little while back Artie was invited to contribute to Cara magazine’s column, 6 Things I’ve learned. The advice he shared is very much how Blas na hEireann runs day to day and we thought we would share it with you here…

1 Sharing is caring
I left school on Friday and joined the crew of a fishing trawler the following Sunday evening as a share fisherman. Sharing wasn’t so much about the money but about working as a team and sharing the workload, if you didn’t do your share then it increased the workload on the rest of the crew. Doing more than your fair share is like saving for the future, so when a time comes and you are overwhelmed by the challenge you face your colleagues are more than willing to ease your burden.

2 R-E-S-P-E-C-T
When you are young you learn self-respect by giving respect to others you gain respect. Although you may not agree with others decisions you should always respect them.

3 Lead from the back
Never ask colleagues to undertake a task that you wouldn’t do yourself, when faced with a pile of sh*te be the first to grab a shovel.

4 Maintain your ethos
When Blas was founded it was with 3 goals in mind. Firstly, to recognise the very best of Irish food and drink and reward the producers that made it, Secondly, to create a network of Irish producers who could work together for the common good and lastly, to help the consumers at home and abroad to find the very best of Irish food and drink. When a decision is made at Blas we go back to these 3 goals and make sure that the outcome is in line with them. At Blas we continue to grow, engaging in more and more events, from public showcases to networking and panel discussion events like the Backyard. With each new step we continually check against our 3 objectives, it helps to keep us on track.

5 Lend an ear
Listening to what others have to say is how we learn, by listening you will hear ideas and opinions you may not have considered and be better able decide how to move forward. Listening is hearing a message and should not be confused with receiving an order. So listen, consider and then decide.

6 Family
Lastly but by all means the most important is family, never make a decision until you have considered the impact on the family, yours, your colleagues and the people you deal with on a daily basis. If you make a decision that may have an adverse effect on family then you can be sure it’s the wrong one. In times of great difficulty the first ones we reach out to are our families and because we treat them with consideration, care and respect they will always be the first to offer their support.


Breakfast with Blas at the Burren Slow Food Festival

Burren Breakfast with BlasThe 14thBurren Slow Food Festival takes place this weekend from Friday 11 – Sunday 13 May in The Pavilion, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare. We are delighted that on Sunday 13 May from 10am – 11am the organisers are hosting “Breakfast with Blas”.  

This event is an opportunity for Burren Slow Food Festival stallholders and visiting food and drink producers to network with one another whilst enjoying tastings of products from the Burren including a selection that have been awarded the Blas accolade.

In addition it will incorporate a 20 minute Backyard at Blas panel discussion.  “Be Pitch Perfect” will focus on how to capitalise on sales and marketing opportunities in a market environment.  It will be chaired by Birgitta Hedin Curtin from the Burren Smokehouse whose product portfolio boasts several awards.

This is a FREE event and if you would like to attend, please email your details to breakfastwithblas@gmail.com
We hope to see you there.

For more information about the Burren Slow Food programme of events, visits www.slowfoodclare.com

The Backyard goes on the Road!

New_dingle food friday025As a result of a hugely successful event during the 2017 awards and in response to demand from producers, the Blas na hEireann team is delighted to announce that it is taking the Backyard at Blas on the road.  Backyard at Blas is an innovative space for individuals in the food and drink industry to meet fellow producers, gain knowledge and find support for your business.  Its objective to help producers grow and develop on a personal and professional level by hearing about the experiences of others, is complimented by an interactive platform that allows for networking.

Set in a relaxed, informal venue, hot topics are covered with industry leaders and experts in a number of engaging conversation panels followed by Q&As.  Throughout the day, attendees have the opportunity to grab a coffee and chat with key people and fellow producers. Lunch is also served.

Images from the 2017 Backyard at Blas

Images from the 2017 Backyard at Blas

The Backyard at Blas is on the road and coming to
The Seamus Ennis Centre in The Naul, Co Dublin  26th June
Press-ing Needs – how to get media coverage with a minimum budget and a little effort
Expanding on a hugely successful panel at the inaugural Backyard this event will focus on getting your story straight. If you can’t get your story across, you can’t sell your product. You need to be able to catch a journalist’s attention and know what they are looking for. It is devilishly difficult to get coverage these days but knowing what the media looks for is half the battle. So, too, is responding quickly to their requests and not badgering people. There is a world of difference between being dogged and being pushy.

Airfield Estate, Dublin 27th June 
Distribution & Logistics – how to get your foot in the door at home & abroad
This event will look at the challenges involved, from initial meetings with buyers (including how best to prepare and to understand your category) through to the logistical challenges of expanding your delivery network.

Full details are yet to be announced. As the events will have very limited places you can register your interest now, you will be offered first option to book the tickets as they go on sale

Register your interest to attend by sending your name and email through the online contact form 


What a BLASt – Radio Documentary

“What a BLASt – 10 years of the Irish Food Awards” produced by Sharon Noonan and Kieran Hurley was aired on UCC 98.3FM on Friday 16 March at 6.00pm on the eve of the opening for entries of the 2018 Blas na hEireann, The Irish Food Awards.

The first ever Blas na hEireann / Irish Food Awards were staged in Dingle, Co Kerry in 2008 as part of the Dingle Food Festival. The 45 minute documentary, which is funded by the BAI, meets Artie Clifford, who conceived the awards and explores how they have grown from a handful of categories and entries in the inaugural year to almost 2500 entries in their 10th year.

The judging process, which was developed in collaboration with UCC, is explained in detail by UCC’s Professor Joe Kerry. Other contributors include award winning chef, Neven Maguire and Ireland’s most respected food writers, John and Sally McKenna. Tribute is paid to the late Shane McArdle for his significant contribution to the food and drink industry in Ireland and beyond

Listen now https://soundcloud.com/ucc98-3fm/blas

Exciting update for Gifted at the RDS

Update Monday 20th November
We have been contacted by a number producers who are interested in sharing space, significantly reducing the cost for individual participants.
This would be on one large shared stand with 1m counter top space for each producer.  If you are interested in sharing please contact Fallon on 087 9029329 or email info@irishfoodawards.com

Blas na hEireann have an exciting opportunity for our past finalists & winners. GIFTED (The National Crafts & Design Fair at the RDS) will have a dedicated space for Blas na hEireann finalists and winners. The show is the largest indoor retail event in the country with over 40,000 unique visitors. The show runs for 6 days from the 5th -10th December.

If you would like to book a stand you can contact Karen Cooney on 01 6702186 or email karen@nationalcraftsfair.ie

If you would like to find out more about a shared producer space contact Fallon on 087 9029329



An invitation from Bank of Ireland….

The Back YardBlas na hÉireann Finalist 2017 BOI Food Series Night Invitation
Tuesday November 28th 6:30pm to 9:30pm

Bank of Ireland was delighted to proudly partner with Blas na hEireann to create “Backyard at Blas” at the Blas na hEireann Irish Food Awards. “Backyard at Blas” was a new innovative breakout space and networking venue at the Awards. We saw many Irish producers visit the space, negotiate and complete deals. Many also said that they took away valuable lessons from the eight workshops over the two days. These workshops featured panels with industry leaders and experts. The food producers that attended mentioned that they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet so many key people at one event and in one room if it wasn’t for this space, which was great feedback to receive.

Our partnership with Blas has grown from “The Bank of Ireland Food Series “which originally was launched back in March in Limerick’s Bank of Ireland Workbench. The series is designed to help Educate, Promote and Celebrate all that is great about local Irish Food & Irish Produce. Each night held a different theme and had Key Speakers of Industry leaders from these sectors. Please search on Twitter #BOIFoodseries for a flavour of some of our nights so far.

Bank of Ireland is excited to expand our BOI Food Series across two more locations in our Cork & Galway Workbenches and are delighted to Invite you as a Blas Finalist to our next Bank of Ireland Food Series night where we again will partner with Blas to launch the “Blas Buyers Directory 2017″ a guide to winners & finalists of Blas 2017We will have a member of the Blas Family present on the night to help launch the directory along with key panel guests, the night will be a great chance to network with fellow producers and also promote your own produce.

Limited  opportunities for some of the finalists & winners to showcase their produce on the night but due to space this will be on a first come basis, so please express your interest along with your RSVP if you have been successful in receiving an award from Blas at the 2017 awards.

This is a FREE event to attend and open to all producers.

Please RSVP to attend the Limerick event which is located at Bank of Ireland 125 O’Connell Street Limerick by close of business on Thursday 23rd of November to both MariaA.walsh@boi.com & JohnA.Doyle@boi.com

Please RSVP to attend the Cork event which is located at Bank of Ireland St Patricks Street Cork by close of business on Thursday 23rd of November to Lia.Boyland@boi.com

Please RSVP to attend the Galway event which is located at Bank of Ireland Mainguard Street Galway by close of business on Thursday 23rd of November to both GrahamA.Clarke@boi.com & annie.claffey@boi.com

We look forward to welcoming you on the night and please support this event on social media by using both hashtags #Blas2017 & #BOIFoodseries.

Backyard Collage 1

Spaces available for Retail Ready Masterclass with GS1

You have a wonderful product and an eye catching design for packaging. What’s next on your mission to making that sale? Are you Retail Ready? If you want to make it smoothly onto the store shelf and then successfully out through the checkout, it’s vital not to overlook one small element – the barcode. A barcode is not just a number. It’s your product’s “retail passport” and the product information associated with it is vital to ensuring your product moves smoothly through the supply chain and into the customer’s home.

Retail ReadyWe are delighted that GS1 will be joining us in Dingle to present a Masterclass on being Retail Ready. This session will cover the main “dos and don’ts” of this key part of your product packaging. We’ll look at the international guidelines for barcode type, size and placement and address some of the misconceptions out there about barcodes. We’ll also talk about the new role of the barcode and how it provides the vital link between your physical product and today’s digital online world.

No matter whether you have a long-established business or are a start-up, getting your product’s identification right is vital to your long term success

To register for this event which is exclusively for finalist producers simply log in online, click on your finalist entry and register your attendee names. There is no charge for this event but spaces are limited and must be pre-registered.


See how GS 1 helped small producer Rose & Alice get #RetailReady

See information from member company Riverview Eggs

Find out more about GS1 and how they are working with us at Blas na hEireann







Bank of Ireland to partner with Blas na hEireann for “Backyard at Blas”

Innovation and networking space comes to the 10th Blas na hEireann Irish Food Awards

Bank of Ireland and Blas na hEireann are partnering to create “Backyard at Blas”, a new innovative breakout space and networking venue at the 10th Blas na hEireann Irish Food Awards.

The “Backyard at Blas” is part of the ever expanding events and opportunities which are central to Blas na hEireann. The Backyard at Blas, in the heart of Dingle, will host a series of talks and networking events are scheduled on the Friday 29th September and Saturday 30th September.

The partnership came about from the highly successful Bank of Ireland’s Food Series which takes place each month in the Bank’s Workbench & Community Branch in Limerick. The initiative aims to educate, celebrate and promote all that’s good about local Irish food. In addition to the Food Series being held in Limerick’s start up space, these events will also be rolled out in Cork and Galway’s Workbenches.

Speakers will include well known chefs, buyers and industry experts offering valuable and insightful advice during interactive sessions with finalist producers. Read more on the line up

Speaking on the partnership, Liam Sheedy, Director of Munster, Bank of Ireland said, “Bank of Ireland are absolutely delighted to partner with Blas na hEireann to bring the Backyard at Blas to this year’s awards. Bank of Ireland has always played an active role in supporting food, agri and hospitality businesses and our partnership with Blas na hEireann will further strengthen that support. Bank of Ireland is very keen to support businesses with their ambitions and plan. Initiatives like Backyard at Blas and our dedicated Innovation Team and Workbench Branches provide us with a platform to do so. We would encourage everyone to pop along on the day and use the space to make connections that can further your business potential.”

“Blas are delighted to partner with Bank of Ireland to bring this exciting new venue where producers can meet fellow producers, gain knowledge and share their experiences” said the Awards Chairperson, Artie Clifford.

Meet the Producer… Cian from Pure Food

Pure Food CoCian and Paul from Pure Food Co first brought home to Waterford a Gold award for their Sundried Tomato & Chilli Pesto as well as a Best in Farmers Market Award in 2015, taking home another Gold in 2016 along with Best in Waterford and Best in Farmer’s Market for Waterford. You can find their products all over Ireland, check where your nearest shop is here

You can find more details on Pure Food Co and our other winners and finalists in our 2016 Directory or you can find more details and updates from Cian & Paul on their Facebook page www.facebook.com/purefoodcompany


When & why did you start your business?
We set up the business in March 2014. Both myself and Paul are Qualified Horticulturists and we met while teaching a course on growing veg organically. We decided to give up on the teaching (for now) and set up our own business producing our own range of herbs and leaves one drunken evening over a bottle of brandy! We both love to be outdoors in the garden (Cian won RTEs Supergarden and subsequently went on to receive a Silver medal at Bloom in the Park in 2014) and foraging for our native species of edible plants and fruit.

We soon came to realise that we could not compete with the big boys and decided that we needed to use our fresh produce to create our own unique products. We produced a range of pickles, relishes and preserves.

We had a glut of spinach on the allotment one week and we decided to make it into a pesto for the local market and it sold out within a couple of hours and we thought “Aha. . . we may have stumbled on something here!” We then began to experiment making all sorts of pesto from nettle to wild garlic to sundried tomato. I think at one point we were making 12 different types! Over the next year through research, tastings and markets we whittled the range down to the four we have today. We were not able to keep up with the demand of growing our own herbs and we now get our herbs from reputable Irish suppliers.

Who is your food inspiration?
Well I grew up eating both my parents’ home cooking which I guess is where my love of food came from. They are both very good cooks so I was brought up eating good, nutritious and wholesome foods.  I am told that there was nothing I wouldn’t eat (except olives though that has been remedied!) growing up. I never really cooked until I moved out of home and had to learn by myself through experimenting . . . some worked, some failed hilariously!

Now I get my inspiration from the many, many wonderful chefs we have in this country from Neven Maguire and Dylan McGrath to Oliver Dunne and so on. I am still experimenting at home and have been recently trialling some of Dearbhla Reanolds fermentation recipies and techniques.

Inspiration for food though can come from anywhere, from my travels, to people I have met; some of the small producers in this country are making some truly inspirational food.

What do you love about your job?
What do I love about my job? Hmmmm . . .  I just love producing healthy food that makes people happy, it’s as simple as that really.  I love when customers come back to us thanking us and singing our praises but for me, I like the idea that I am doing my bit and helping fight this whole obesity epidemic by producing simple healthy food.

What is your typical day?
I have two types of typical days. My working day and my days off which are becoming increasingly rarer these days!

A typical work day involves getting up at 4.30 or 5 and picking up herbs for the day’s production. We only use the freshest locally sourced herbs we can find. Then it is out to the kitchen for a 12 to 16 hour day of production. It is a long and tiresome day but we insist on the freshest possible product going out to our customers so we make to order and have it sent out within 24 hours. Days off are spent relaxing in the outdoors with my partner Kelda and little boy Rowan.

What was your best day since you started this business?
Winning the Blas na hEireann awards two years running is up there but for me personally it has to be the day we secured the deals with our wonderful distributor National Organic Products and Dunne’s Stores. These two deals propelled us from being an expensive hobby local producer to a National producer. You can now get our range in Supervalu stores nationwide, selected Dunne’s Stores nationwide and a host of independent stores nationwide.

Where do your ingredients come from?
All our ingredients are locally sourced. Our herbs come from McCormack’s family farm in Co. Meath.

Tell us about the people you work with
Paul is my business partner and the less said about him the better!

On a more serious note. . Paul looks after the business aspect of the company and were it not for him we would not be where we are today. He has tirelessly communicated and harassed at times to broker deals to push the business forward. Paul I tip my hat to you, you do a thankless job that I could never do. There have been times when I was down and feeling that this was never going to work but Paul kept on pushing (sometimes it seems pulling moneys out of nowhere to keep us afloat) and in the end succeeded on getting us through our bad spells.

It helps that we get on well together and have a friendship outside the business. We never shut off but we can have the banter be it in the kitchen or around a campfire in the woods with a beer in hand.

What three words would you use to describe yourself/your business?
Tenacity, Ambition and Creativity.

What do you think is the key to success?
Patience and stubborness.  We have been at this now for over three years and are only in the last couple of months beginning to see the fruits of our labour. It has been three very difficult years for both of our families but the corner has now been turned. We set up the business with nothing and promised ourselves that we would not get into debt building the business. We have been true to our word, every penny the company has made has been reinvested to help it grow. It has got us tom where we are now but by god has it been a hard slog.


Priory Press Packaging to sponsor at this year’s Blas na hEireann

We are  delighted to welcome Priory Press Packaging as a sponsor of the 2017 Blas na hEireann, The Irish Food Awards. Priory Press have developed strong working relationships with previous winners and are proud to be sponsoring the Best Packaging Awards which are presented jointly with our academic partners UCC. 

For the overall judging of Blas na hEireann it is, as always, blind tasted and judged using sensory analysis without any scoring for packaging, marketing or design. However, in addition to the overall competition every entry which is delivered for tasting is also reviewed by the UCC packaging team, who specialise in this area. This is an additional opportunity to be recognised and in a separate judging process the UCC judges are looking for packaging design and innovation, an honour which has been presented by the UCC team, our academic partners, since the very beginning of the Blas na hEireann awards. It is wonderful to welcome Priory Press on board this year to jointly present this award with UCC.

Priory Press PackagingPriory Press Packaging are carton board packaging printers, who provide innovative packaging concepts for a variety of industry sectors. Specialising in printed sleeves and retail boxes for the food industry, the Northern Irish based company has developed a wide portfolio of clientele throughout the UK and Ireland. With over 40 years in the printing industry, their expertise in printing, the finishing services they offer such as window patching, foil blocking and UV varnish, and the quality of the packaging they produce explains why they work so closely with a number of large multiples in the retail trade as well as many small to medium producers.

Their tailored and personal approach to finding the perfect printed carton board packaging solutions for their customers is what sets Priory Press Packaging apart from the rest. Working to tight deadlines, responding to promotional sales, and providing product pitch marketing samples are just some of the reasons they have maintained long term working relationships with customers like Tesco Ireland, Lidl and Aldi, Foods of Athenry, and Unimush to name but a few.

At the start of 2017, Priory Press Packaging were awarded with a Grade AA in BRC accreditation which insists on a high hygiene and safer production environment using BRC compliant board and low migration inks for safer packaging to provide an assured supply chain for food packaging. Located just 20 minutes from Belfast, the company has a full production factory including facilities such as a design studio and photographic kitchen for customers who require full branding and artwork creation.