New look North East Scotland Food & Drink Awards to support growth of ambitious businesses

Claire Rennie of Summerhouse Drinks, Stuart Common of Mackie’s of Scotland, Alistair Reid from Aberdeenshire Council and Peter Cook of Opportunity North East are encouraging food and drink manufacturers and producers to maximise the market development opportunities in the revamped North East Scotland Food & Drink Awards.

JUDGES from key customers for north east Scotland’s food and drink sector are part of the revamped industry awards set to support the growth of ambitious businesses across the region.

The North East Scotland Food & Drink Awards, delivered by Opportunity North East (ONE) in partnership with Aberdeenshire Council, has been a springboard for market development for over 30 years.

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The new-look awards offer practical benefits to entrants and winners, to support the next generation of food and drink manufacturers and producers with a range of market development opportunities.

Industry-leading judges from across the UK – including from Waitrose & Partners, Naked Wines and SPAR – will provide feedback on entries. New category prizes will provide practical growth support, including use of the new product development kitchen at ONE SeedPod. Shortlisted and winning entries will benefit from enhanced profiles with industry buyers, influencers, and consumers, and products entered will also feature at the gala awards dinner in May – the region’s premier industry event.

ESS Compass Group is the title sponsor for the awards, and SPAR/CJ Lang, Strachans, Serco North Link Ferries, CMS and Scotland Food & Drink support the awards.

The awards are free to enter for Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray-based businesses. This year’s categories include the best new food and drink products through to the most innovative company, rising star and team of the year.

Stanley Morrice MBE chairs the food, drink, and agriculture board at ONE. He said: “North east Scotland’s world-class food and drink sector is enterprising and innovative, and its products are in demand across the UK and internationally. ONE is working with entrepreneurs and business leaders to enable them to achieve more and fulfil their growth ambitions. 

“The revamped 2024 awards provide the industry platform and practical support to boost market development and celebrate excellence and investment in people, products and processes across this diverse and dynamic sector. We want to see success stories of consumer-led product development and hear from the businesses putting people, innovation and sustainability at the heart of their growth plans and to see finalists and winners benefit from their participation,” said Mr Morrice.

The food and drink sector in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray is growing twice as fast as the rest of the country and employs more than 22,000 people. Looking ahead, high-value manufacturing and production are pivotal in the region’s economic diversification through sustainable growth and the creation of new, high-skill jobs.

Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, Cllr Alan Turner, said: 

“Each year, the north east of Scotland’s economy is massively bolstered by £2.4 billion thanks to its tremendous food and drink production. Additionally, the sector supports around 22,000 jobs across the region, hugely important for our communities.

“The North East Scotland Food & Drink Awards play an important role in celebrating local businesses and key figures within the industry who, despite all the challenges facing them, such as ongoing energy and supply costs, continue driving innovation and business growth. We are delighted to continue our partnership with ONE to recognise these success stories, promoting the region as a pacesetter in the Scottish food and drink industry. I encourage all businesses to enter, particularly those who haven’t entered before.”

Successful businesses across Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray have repeatedly used the awards to test and promote new products, hone their pitching skills, reward team efforts and gain recognition for their achievements in everything from exports to sustainability.

Claire Rennie is the owner of Summerhouse Drinks, which has secured multiple product wins and had operational excellence recognised in the awards. She said: “The awards provide a very well-respected opportunity for local food and drinks manufacturers to showcase the quality of their products and operations. The win isn’t the winning, but the ability to meet and discuss your business with the judges, who are generally key players in the food and drink industry.”

Stuart Common is managing director of Mackie’s of Scotland, which has won in categories including retail product, tourism experience, export, business growth and sustainability. He said: “The awards celebrate all the great food and drink businesses we are surrounded by in the region, allowing us to share our successes and champion wonderful produce and products. Being considered for, and subsequently winning, an award is both satisfying and gratifying for the hard work that goes into making our products and is a reminder and recognition of the efforts of the whole team involved.”

Businesses should enter the 2024 awards via the website. The closing date for entries is 8 March 2024, and winners will be announced at the awards dinner on 9 May 2024 at Meldrum House Country Hotel, Oldmeldrum.

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