Ireland's food and drink scene has changed rapidly in recent years and for over a decade Good Food Ireland® has been championing the very best of the Irish cuisine experience - here is their story. 

In 2006 from her farm in Co Wexford, Margaret Jeffares began Good Food Ireland®, a standard of guaranteed trust and honesty in food and drink that set the scene for a new kind of tourism for Ireland. One which embraced the country’s legendary food and drinks production, farming, and fishing heritage, as an essential part of the visitor experience.

There were numerous events and conditions that had arisen in Ireland in the early 2000s that had an impact on restaurants, independently owned hotels, food suppliers, and on one of their most important consumers: tourists. The concept and philosophy conceived and created by Margaret Jeffares was to become a solution to this set of challenges. 

Going the extra Mile

In Ireland, there had always been individual restaurateurs and small hoteliers who undertook the extra necessary effort to ensure their customers were being presented with and consuming, the very best produce that the locality could offer.

Some went to meet incoming fishing vessels on windswept piers to have that morning’s catch of fresh fish on their menus that very night. Some took to narrow boreens and rolling fields to meet directly with farmers so that the vegetable offerings on their tables were in season and freshly harvested.  Some sourced local artisan bakers and confectioners ensured the tastiest, freshest pastries were available to titillate eager palates. Some directly met the beef, poultry, and pork producers to select locally reared produce even when additional costs were involved.

Despite these selective methods that ensured only the very best of food was served in these dedicated establishments, few people knew that the provenance of this tasteful food was local and Irish. Such was their mindset, that many of the owners never realized or highlighted the fact that they sold only wholesome, traditionally sourced local produce to a world that was eager and willing to sample it. They had just always done it that way.

Clearly, these people needed to have the capacity to market what they had on offer. More importantly, it highlights what distinguished them from their competitors many of whom used cheaper and sometimes inferior imported produce. Good Food Ireland® recognized these needs and instigated a means to fulfill them. 

Rooms and Boom

The international visitor market began to favor Ireland as a preferred destination. Many larger, internationally owned subsidized hotels acquired their food and produce by importing them for overseas markets. This in turn put pressure on local farm producers who couldn’t compete with low-level pricing from developing countries. In many of these new larger hotels and bars, cheap imported produce was the only food on offer.

As a result, local agricultural producers did not benefit from the increase in demand. Meanwhile, tourists became more conscious about what they were eating and where it came from. Globally, food was becoming more fashionable with the rise of celebrity chefs, master chef classes, and food programming on TV. At the same time, there was a heightened awareness about food safety, and concerns emerged with the advent of SARs and other global food scares. On promotional tours to the United States and elsewhere Margaret now began to receive queries for the very first time about the quality and source of food in Ireland.

The Good Food Ireland® philosophy of connecting local producers with the hospitality industry was set to provide answers and solutions to these queries. It was to become the exemplar for everyone who simply loved good local food! 

Farm to Fork

In the last number of years, there has been a growing awareness of the ill effects of poor dietary choices and processed food for the mass market. It has long been established that locally grown quality produce is the best means of maintaining a healthy diet in any population. 

This idea of the consumer knowing from when and where their food has come gained traction around the world. In the US the idea is promoted under the caption of ‘Farm to Table’ The ethos of Good Food Ireland® was consistent with this trend and reinforced the value of local production and consumption and of the customer knowing exactly where their food came from under the banner of ‘Farm to Fork’.

In 2023 Good Food Ireland® is 17 years in existence. Much has changed in Ireland’s food and drink scene and Good Food Ireland® continues at the fore, directing visitors to genuine places offering a truly authentic Irish experience.

Today Good Food Ireland® is the Trustmark for local food and drink experiences on the island of Ireland and a broad cross-sector of restaurants, bars, hotels, castles, and agri-food and drink producers are aspiring to these standards and committing to the philosophy.

IrishCentral is a proud media partner with the Good Food Ireland® Awards which takes place on Monday 17th April at The K Club, County Kildare. To find out more information click here.