Brian Irwin, Chairman of Irwin’s Bakery has been presented with a special Contribution to the agri-food Industry in Northern Ireland at the inaugural Henderson Wholesale Fresh Innovation Awards at the Balmoral Show.

The revamped awards were held this morning (Friday 18 May) at the 150th Balmoral Show to celebrate the Henderson’s fresh food suppliers, farmers and growers rewarded for their product innovation, accessibility of goods and their sustainable practices.

Mr Irwin also picked up the Overall Supplier of the Year Award for Irwin’s Bakery, which has been trading with Hendersons since the early 1900s.

Tim Graham of Graham’s Bakery also became the first ever recipient of the Young Agri-Food Innovator Award, a fresh category for the all-new awards.

The judges agreed that Tim was excelling in New Product Development for the Dromore based company; Tim recently collaborated with the wholesaler to produce an exclusive line of celebration cakes for the new Occasions range developing throughout Henderson branded stores.

Other winners at the breakfast ceremony included T.S Foods Ltd for Excellence in Product Innovation for their Ann’s Kitchen range of fresh and convenient fish meals; Hovis Ltd which won the Excellence in Regional Delivery award for maintaining a 99.98% service level when delivering over 50 bread and bakery products, six days a week, directly to the entire network of SPAR and EUROSPAR retailers in Northern Ireland.

PRM Group, one of Henderson Wholesale’s leading fresh brand suppliers took home The Tomorrow Matters Award which is a nod to the alignment of the Group’s CSR practices with its suppliers. Ballyclare pork producers Fred C Robinsons were presented with the Own Brand Supplier of the Year gong, reflecting the company’s increase in sales of +13% of the SPAR’s enjoy local range of pork sausages.

In the first Local Butchery Awards to be presented at the event, Henderson Retail honoured four butchery concessions who scored highest during audits which took place at the start of the year. The audits focused on quality, range, presentation, innovation, flair, availability and creativity.

McMurray’s Butcher at EUROSPAR Templepatrick, H&J Carnduff Butchers in EUROSPAR Brackenvale on Saintfield Road, and Haye’s Family Butchers, from SPAR Greystone in Antrim were Highly Commended in the category.

Quail’s Butchery in SPAR Dromore Road, Banbridge took home the title of In-Store Butcher of the Year, with Joe Quail accepting the award on behalf of the team.

Neal Kelly, Fresh Foods Director at Henderson Group commented; “With the 150th anniversary of the Balmoral Show, we also wanted to make our annual celebration of our fresh food suppliers one to remember.

“The Fresh Innovation Awards have been fantastic, and we have received such a positive response from the suppliers we work with. We strive to ensure we are sourcing locally first and foremost as we have some of the finest produce in the world on our own doorstep. There is simply no excuse to be looking elsewhere.

“I am delighted to honour Brian Irwin, Chairman of Irwin’s Bakery for his contribution to the industry here. Not only has he pushed forward and diversified the family business to successfully break the GB market, he has done the same with the food and drinks industry in Northern Ireland thanks to his work with the NI Food & Drink Association (NIFDA). I’d like to congratulate all of our finalists, highly commended and winning companies from today’s awards, we are very lucky to live and work in a place with such incredible talent for food innovation.”

Paddy Doody, Sales & Marketing Director at Henderson Group added; “We have had a fantastic few days at Balmoral Show with the SPAR brand as Platinum Sponsor. We enjoy being at the heart of the biggest agri show in Northern Ireland as our stores are in the heart of all our communities throughout Northern Ireland.

“SPAR provides a convenience channel and platform for our local suppliers to thrive, to learn and collaborate, and this is no more evident than in the companies and individuals we’ve celebrated this morning. We are delighted to have enjoyed such a successful eighth year of sponsoring the Balmoral Show.”

Jo Scott, BBC Northern Ireland’s Home Ground presenter hosted the awards which saw over 100 members of the local food industry, Henderson Group Board of Directors and Ulster  Guild of SPAR come together for the awards ceremony and breakfast, made up from producers including Ballygarvey Eggs, Boconnell Mushrooms, Connolly Meats, Henry Denny, Lacpatrick Dairy, Total Produce, Fred C Robinson, Allied Bakeries and Armagh Apple Juice.

An independent judging panel made up of food, agri and business experts scrutinised over 40 entries from around 20 local companies. The judges included Freda Magill, former Chair of the Ulster Farmers’ Union; Joy Alexander, Head of Technology at CAFRE; food writer Sam Butler, Head of the Agri-Food Business Development Centre at Ulster University, Dr Lynsey Hollywood, and Irish News Business Editor, Gary McDonald.


Full list of highly commended & winning companies:

Excellence in Regional Delivery

Winner: Hovis Ltd.

Highly Commended: Around Noon


Excellence in Product Innovation

Winner: T.S Foods Ltd.

Highly Commended: Mash Direct and K&G McAtamney Butchers


Own Brand Supplier of the Year

Winner: Fred C Robinsons

Highly Commended: Milgro


The Tomorrow Matters Award

Winner: PRM Group

Highly Commended: Cloughbane Farm Shop


Young agri-food Innovator

Tim Graham, Graham’s Bakery


Local Butchery Awards

In-store Butcher of the Year: Quail’s Butchery, SPAR Dromore Road, Banbridge

Highly Commended: McMurray’s Butcher, Haye’s Family Butchers and H&J Carnduff Butchers


Contribution to agri-food Industry in Northern Ireland

Brian Irwin, Irwin’s Bakery


Overall Supplier of the Year

Winner: Irwin’s Bakery

Highly Commended: K&G McAtamney Butchers and Cloughbane Farm Shop