Afterr whittling down a record number of entries for the Hotelympia '98 New Product Awards to only 38, a panel of industry experts embarked on the final stage in the judging process on the first day of the show, visiting each of the shortlisted companies.
Looking for a combination of innovation, quality and product benefit, the judges awarded eight gold and nine silver medals across the categories of food, drink, light catering equipment, heavy catering equipment, catering equipment accessories, hospitality premises, furniture, textiles and tableware, interior accessories, and health and leisure. The products were not compared with each other but were judged in the context of the benefits they offered their own market.
Baxters of Speyside took a gold medal for its range of fruit purées. Developed not to skin over or separate on the plate, the purées are available in strawberry, mango, raspberry and blackcurrant flavours and can be used in a variety of applications, from base sauces for fruit fools and syrups to an ingredient in game marinades.
The mango flavour was found to be particularly good, and one judge said of the purées: "It is a godsend for banquet caterers to be able to plate up in advance and for a product not to skin over."
Judges also commented that a lot of time had obviously been spent on research.
A silver medal was awarded to Major International for its game stock base designed for use in gravies, casseroles, pies, soups, pasta and rice dishes. Judges were impressed with the taste and the convenience of the product, which is supplied in paste form, is free from additives and has a year's ambient shelf life.
Another silver medal went to Simple Simon Food for its new breakfast product, Rumblers. Judges remarked that the pack, containing cereals, 125ml of milk, a bowl and a fold-up spoon, had a wide variety of applications. They were particularly impressed with the milk, which managed to combine a 28-day shelf life with a fresh taste.
The Neon range of plastic glasses, spirit measures and clip mats from Splendid Trading was described by the judges as a "clever innovation which is perfect for its market", and they awarded it a gold medal.
The plastic glasses, available in a variety of colours and with added glitter to disguise scratch marks, won praise for being safe for use in nightclubs as they do not break even when trodden on, practical, as they go in the dishwasher, and fun.
The CPC 61G mini gas combi-oven from Rational UK took a gold medal in this category. Using Rational's ClimaPlus technology, the oven, says Rational, cooks food faster and uses significantly less power than conventional combis. The judges were particularly impressed by the simple-to-use control panel and space-saving features.
A silver medal was awarded to Welbilt UK for its Technyform gas-fired ceramic plate, the first gas oven equipped with a ceramic hob, according to the company. Fired by two independent ceramic burners, it gives a temperature range which reaches as high as 500¼C. One judge described it as "a very innovative piece of equipment which more or less eliminates the cost of cleaning a gas range".
The judges were impressed enough by the innovative features on Calomax's Cascade water boiler to award it a gold medal. The boiler, which features scale-inhibitor technology, has a maximum hourly output of 30 litres, self-diagnostic service lights and a cool-to-touch outer casing, which prompted one judge to say that Calomax had "taken the most dangerous piece of equipment in the kitchen and made it safe".
"A brilliant idea" was how one judge described the Maestrowave combi-chef III deluxe from RH Hall Microwave. It offers five cooking combinations in one - convection oven, microwave, grill, convection and microwave, and grill and microwave - and takes metal dishes. The judges decided it was very versatile and very compact, and awarded it a gold medal.
The Wrapmaster 4000 from Wrap Film Systems cuts film, foil and paper wrapping materials precisely to give savings of as much as 35% on material costs, according to the company. A gold medal was awarded for the dispenser, which is dishwasher-proof and can be wall-mounted or stand-alone, and was described by one judge as "very simple, but brilliant".
Robot Coupe UK's tomato and citrus slicer earned a silver medal for being very fast and economical as well as simple to use and easy to keep clean. The slicer also works for kiwi fruit and other garnishes, making it an ideal choice for use at the bar.
Judges awarded a silver medal to the Radio Intrusion Alert from Bell Technologies, a portable radio-based system designed to protect valuable equipment in conference rooms. The system requires no cabling and is easy to move from room to room.
Once the system is positioned in the room and turned on, a receiver panel in the reception or security office will identify unauthorised entry. Judges said it was a good idea, particularly for the mobile caterer and at events and exhibitions.
Furniture And Furnishings
The Octavian Collection of four high-backed and four low-backed chairs won a silver medal for H Morris of Glasgow, and was described by judges as a "great fun product" and "ideal for themed bars".
Textiles & Tableware
Very popular with all the judges was the Accent collection of mix-and-match tableware from Churchill Hotelware. The 16 items come in a choice of three designs - Salsa, Navaho, and Sea 'n' Sand - and are designed to be used in conjunction with everyday whiteware to create an individual themed look at minimum cost.
Awarding the collection a gold medal, the judges agreed it represented excellent value for money.
Robert Welch's Sea Drift cutlery, with handles sculptured to fit comfortably in the hand, won a silver medal and praise from all the judges. "It's good to get away from straight cutlery," said one.
The Talentofill combined bath fill, waste and overflow unit from Grohe Water Technology was described by judges as "a great and innovative product" and awarded a gold medal. The judges were very impressed that the product eliminated the need for a plug, tap and overflow unit and therefore cut down on plumbing, and it would be easy to maintain.
A silver medal went to Pacific Direct for its range of Neutrogena skin and haircare products. The judges were impressed by the unisex fragrance and said that customers would be happy to use a recognised consumer brand known for its mild formula.
Health & Leisure
The Lite-Step Dance Floor earned Lightzone Distribution a silver medal for being a fun solution to providing a dance floor for parties and marquees. The floor comprises interlocking metre-square panels and low voltage lights. One judge noted that the product could be hired out, thus recovering the cost of purchase.