Northern Ireland artisan bakery Ditty’s has secured its first export deal in the Middle East, as global interest in the business continues to grow.

The Castledawson bakery, run by last year’s Baking Industry Awards’ Baker of the Year Robert Ditty, was initially asked to develop a new line of alcohol-free mince pies to Dubai’s Pan Euro Foods MENA.

Instead, the food distributor, whose headquarters are located in Dublin, selected Ditty’s home-baked shortbread in time for Christmas to its substantial UK and Irish ex-patisserie community in the United Arab Emirates.

A company spokesman said that the new mince pie products were not ready in time for this year, but would be looking to ensure they are available for 2012.

The bakery has also been approached by a Hong Kong airline, which wants to offer Ditty’s shortbread to its business and first-class travellers, as well as a number of food businesses in mainland China who have shown interest in the bakery firm’s shortbread and oatcakes.

Michael Palframan, marketing manager for Ditty’s, said: “Pan Euro Foods MENA is now well-established, as importers and distributors of the finest Irish and European foodstuffs into the Middle East and North Africa region and has the network of contacts to drive sales of our products there.

“We are excited about the business and look forward to working closely with the company to help increase sales of our award-winning shortbread and to adding further products to the distributor’s portfolio in due course.”