The North East Scotland Food and Drink Awards has officially launched and has introduced two new categories as part of this year’s line-up.
Making its first return in two years as a result of the pandemic and the restrictions that were put on in-person events, the prestigious awards will be held at The Chester Hotel in Aberdeen on Thursday June 9.
Reflecting the fast-evolving industry, the new additions include E-commerce Success and Operational Excellence. They celebrate innovative businesses that have developed digital routes to market, grown online sales and highlight significant gains in productivity and sustainability.
Delivered in partnership by Opportunity North East (ONE) and Aberdeenshire Council, the awards showcase the products and achievements of food and drink producers of all sizes in the region.
There are 12 categories overall, ranging from Best New Product (Emerging Business) to Best Distilled Product.
They are free to enter and open to all food and drink producers, both new and established, who are based in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray.
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, food and drink firms have successfully responded to rapidly-changing customer and market demands and consumer behaviour as the industry navigated unprecedented challenges and opportunities.
The adaptability and innovation demonstrated by businesses in the north-east of Scotland will be recognised at the awards this year.
The sector’s importance
Employing more than 22,000 people in the region and turning over more than £2.2 billion a year, food and drink plays a huge part in Scotland’s economic landscape.
Stanley Morrice chairs the food, drink and agriculture board at Opportunity North East.
He said: “Our region is synonymous with premium food and drink from land and sea.
“Agile, enterprising and innovative food and drink businesses – from industry leaders to scaling businesses and ambitious new starts – have brought new products to market and grown their sales, connected with customers and consumers via new channels, and enhanced their low-carbon production to contribute to net-zero targets over the past two years.
“The 2022 Awards are a great chance for businesses to demonstrate how they have successfully addressed the opportunities and challenges of the fast-changing food and drink market.
“They recognise individual and collective achievements and increase awareness of products among buyers.”
Food and drink is a priority sector in the Aberdeenshire Council Economic Development Strategy, which aims to create the conditions for sustainable economic growth, diversification and regeneration within Aberdeenshire and the wider region by attracting and supporting businesses.
Councillor Peter Argyle, Deputy Leader and chair of the Aberdeenshire Council Infrastructure Services Committee, said: “Food and drink is such an important and growing area of our diversifying local economy and it’s great to see these awards return for 2022.
“They will help us all celebrate the best of what’s on offer in Aberdeenshire and the rest of the north-east of Scotland.
“Businesses across the region are leading the way in terms of innovation, sustainability and technology so it’s important to encourage and promote that to the wider industry, to share ideas and best practice, further strengthening our leadership in the sector.”
Rachel Gambro, who organises the Deeside Local Food Festival in Cults and is one of Scotland’s regional food tourism ambassadors, is a judge for this year’s awards.
She is involved in assessing entries in the Best Food & Drink Tourism Experience category.
She said: “Food and drink production is an essential part of north east Scotland’s economy. I am delighted to undertake the role of ambassador for the region and I am looking forward to seeing the range of brilliant work that will be submitted to the awards this year.”
Entries should be made via the website – www.nesfoodanadrinkawards.co.uk – which also contains guidance and support.
The closing date is Monday 7 March and winners will be announced at the awards dinner.