The 2008 Caterer and Hotelkeeper Excellence in Food and Drink Awards, in association with 3663 First for Foodservice, is an opportunity to applaud manufacturers for their invaluable contribution to the delivery of food and drink to the industry's increasingly demanding customers.
Today's customers are more discerning and far more knowledgeable about food than, say, 10 years ago, which means operators need to be able to source products that will live up to their diners' expectations. Our awards highlight those products that fulfil the needs of a busy food service operation and contribute that bit extra to the dining experience.
In many cases this year's winners reflect the "back to basics" approach so popular within the industry, where provenance and authenticity are paramount in the provision of good, wholesome food.
This year's expert panel of judges sampled and assessed nearly 200 products, from appetising starter options and healthy snacks to wholesome main courses and scrumptious desserts, before arriving at a shortlist of 61 products deemed to deliver that bit extra in terms of taste, appearance and usability.
Here we unveil our 2008 winners and shortlisted products. Congratulations to them all.
Diane Lane, Supplier and Products Editor
View the Excellence in Food & Drink Awards - shortlist part 1 >>
View the Excellence in Food & Drink Awards - shortlist part 2 >>
View the Excellence in Food & Drink Awards - shortlist part 3 >>
ACCOMPANIMENTS & INGREDIENTS
Barilla - Spaghetti Integrale - Whole Wheat Spaghetti
The Spaghetti Integrale and Fusilli Integrale are light in colour and texture despite being whole wheat products. Judges admired the golden colour of the whole wheat spaghetti, which they said would "appeal to the mainstream market while adding fibre and goodness to the diet" and was a "point of difference" to other pastas on the market. The pasta cooks well, producing an appealing amber colour and maintains its shape without sticking together and according to the judges delivers a "very nice" flavour.
0870 366 3000
Prep Premium Infused Oils
Premiere Chunky Chilli Chutney
0845 606 9090
Ancient Greek Vinaigre
Maggi Multi-use Tomato Sauce
Gonzalez Byass - Beronia Tempranillo 2006
Our judges were bowled over by this wine, the grapes for which are selected on the basis of maximum phenolic ripeness of fruit, especially of the skin. They agreed it was "big and gutsy" and identified a "chocolaty aroma" and a "strong flavour with lots of cherries", characteristics which arise from the casks having a special "toast" which gives it liquorice, mocha/coffee nuances combined with intense berry fruit flavour.
"A good fill" of Hereford Beef cooked for three hours in a rich cask-conditioned Abbott Ale gravy then added along with roast Portabello mushrooms to a shortcrust pastry case make up this 400g pie. Our judges agreed "the ale flavour comes through" and one even declared it "one of the best-looking pies I've seen".
Almond Pain Chocolat
Continental Pastry Selection
Chocolate and Hazelnut Flavoured Brioche
0116 257 1871
0116 257 1871
CHEESE, DAIRY & MILK PRODUCTS
The Cheese Company - Tickler Fabulous Extra Mature Cheddar
The sweet tangy Tickler Fabulous Extra Mature Cheddar was an all-round favourite with this year's judges. The Cheddar has a creamy texture and a subtle crunch as it dissolves in the mouth. One judge praised the Cheddar's "creamy texture and unique flavour that isn't too sharp" while another added that the flavour "stays on your palette". The Tickler was developed as an extra-mature Cheddar with an ageing process of an average of 18 months. It is graded to a specific spidergraph of flavours to ensure its consistency and is suitable for serving as part of a cheeseboard or for use as an ingredient. Judges liked the packaging and distinctive name and one added that the "tangy Cheddar is by far the best cheese".
Premiere Barrel Aged Greek Feta
0845 606 9090
CONFECTIONERY & IMPULSE SNACKING
Yorkshire Crisp Company - Henderson's Yorkshire Sauce Crisps
The Yorkshire Sauce Crisps tick all the boxes as far as issues surrounding protecting the environment and provenance are concerned and judges were impressed by crisps' appearance and taste. Billed as the ultimate Yorkshireman's crisp, the crisps are made with potatoes delivered to the factory by tractor from a farm 10 miles away. All ingredients are natural and provided by local suppliers, packagers and distributors. Henderson's Yorkshire Sauce is combined with Henderson's Relish for a touch of spice and to give the crisps an appealing aroma and texture. The judges described the crisps, which contain 20% less fat than standard crisps, as a "premium product" with an "aromatic flavour", "soft crunch" and "very moreish". They also liked the fact that the transparent packaging "tells the story of the crisps' origin" while displaying the product inside.
Yorkshire Crisp Company
The row of empty judges' plates were testament to the popularity of Brakes' Premiere Chocolate Box. They commented that the box was "sophisticated and could easily fit into top-end restaurants" and is "just the right size". Another judge added: "In the right surroundings this dessert would be fantastic". "A good piece of kit", commented a further judge. The dessert comprises a shortbread base topped with dark chocolate mousse made using Belgian chocolate, surrounding a caramel cream centre and enriched with French butter and fresh cream. The Chocolate Box dessert is hand-finished with a chocolate dusting and can be served after defrosting for three hours in a refrigerator.
0845 606 9090
A 100% positive reaction to this product from our judges earned it the top spot in this category. The hake is caught off the coast of South Africa by a fishery that had been brought to near-ruin by the end of the 1970s by the unrestricted activities of international distant-water fleets trawling the south-east Atlantic. The South African government and industry worked together to turn this around, and in April 2004 it became the first African fishery to be accredited by the Marine Stewardship Council.
It is wood-smoked in Scotland by a supplier with a long history of smoking whitefish and "the smoke is spot on" with the taste "still fishy, not all smoke".
0845 606 9090
Global Ethics - One Water
For the first time in the awards' six year history our judges have singled out for special recognition one product which they described as "an amazing idea bordering on genius". One Water is a bottled water brand which donates all its profits to fund the development of roundabout-powered water pumps, called PlayPumps, in Africa. As children spin on the roundabout, fresh, clean water is pumped from as deep as 100m underground into a storage tank for use by the entire community. Judges applauded this special concept about which they said "for ethical reasons this product ticks all the boxes" and "the company is streets ahead of anyone else".
FOOD ON THE GO
Fresh! Naturally Organic - Eat the Seasons Combo Box
Our judges declared this was "something really different in the sandwich market" and "very well thought through". Each box contains half a sandwich, a seasonal salad and a dressing plus a compliments slip stating that everything within is organic, has been sourced in the British Isles and is in season that week. The contents vary according to the season and availability but a typical example is a Dorset ham, Wensleydale cheese and apple and cider chutney on wholemeal bread; a salad of broad beans, beetroot, fennel, radishes and Hampshire watercress; and a rapeseed oil and cider vinegar dressing. "It's a provenance message in a box" they concluded.
Fresh! Naturally Organic
020 8795 2117
Steak and Mature Farmhouse Cheddar Pie
Hot Posh Pastries
Mighty Leaf Tea - Green Tea Tropical Tea Pouch
Drained cups indicated a seal of approval from our judges who enjoyed the fruit taste of Green Tea Tropical, which blends smooth green tea leaves with pineapple, guava, banana and strawberry. Also praised for their construction which one judge described as "sensational", the hand-crafted, cotton-stitched, biodegradable silken tea pouches contain fruit pieces and spices that are too big for ordinary tea bags, and the individually wrapped pouches are portion-controlled for a two-cup teapot.
Mighty Leaf Tea
Fairtrade Organic Machu Picchu Fresh Ground Coffee
Aero Bubbly Hot Chocolate
La Maison des Sorbets - Watercress Sorbet
Designed by Parisian pastry chefs for restaurants and hotels, Watercress Sorbet is made from natural ingredients to give a freshly made artisan look. Judges were impressed by the "good vibrant colour", "clean and refreshing taste" and suggested that it would be great to serve as an accompaniment to other dishes. Also noted was the "peppery taste and texture of watercress" in the sorbet. "This is something the mainstream customer hasn't seen," said one judge, while another added: "It's great to see such an original product". The distinctive tasting sorbet can be purchased in two-litre tubs or as individually hand-scooped balls or quenelles.
020 8968 0707
La Maison des Sorbets
Premiere Dairy Clotted Cream Vanilla Ice-Cream
0845 606 9090
La Maison des Sorbets
Mixed Berry Ice Cream
020 8968 0707
INNOVATION AWARD & GOLD AWARD
Coxon's Kitchen - Alan Coxon's Range of Vinaigres
"Three great flavour profiles" that are "not harsh or astringent" make up this range of three vinegars inspired by eras dating as far back as 44BC which our judges thought were perfect for lifting dressings. In fact they were so impressed with the trio that it went straight to the top of the scoreboard and scooped the coveted Gold Award, chosen from all our category winners. The Medieval Ale-Gar has hints of chocolate, cinnamon and roasted malt and can be used like balsamic vinegar; Ancient Greek Vinaigre is light and floral with hints of rose, coriander and vine fruits; and Roman Vinaigre is infused with cinnamon, camomile and peppercorn and sweetened with honey.
Hot Posh Scoffins
0870 833 8732
Dairystix Semi-Skimmed Milk UHT
KID'S SNACKS & DRINKS
Premier Foods - Chocolate Angel Delight
The reformulated dessert classic Angel Delight went down a storm with the junior judges with one child exclaiming: "It's brilliant, fantastic, filling and has a nice texture". The new and improved Angel Delight is free from hydrogenated vegetable oils, artificial colours, flavours and sweeteners to meet school guidelines. The children sampled the chocolate flavour, which they commented was "very chocolatey", "sweet" and "like a mousse". Seven further flavours are available including: banana, butterscotch, raspberry, strawberry, lemon, white chocolate and peach. Reduced-fat cocoa powder and flavourings are used to make the chocolate-flavour dessert. Simple to prepare, the ambient dessert is also easy to store and low on wastage.
The kids loved this main course because they thought it was a tasty and healthy option. They commented that the chicken was of a high quality and that the skewered meat bread wraps with sauces dish would be well finished with a side salad. The dinner kit gives caterers the freedom to offer school children variety with four varieties of 80g precooked skewers including chicken, chicken tikka, mixed kebab and minted lamb kofta. These are served in 8in Lebanese kiln-fired wraps that are thicker than standard wraps to prevent splitting or leaking and can be served with a choice of sauces including peri peri, mint and yogurt, and BBQ. A 55g cooked chicken breast has been specifically created to meet nutritional guidelines for schools, and the company also offers menu suggestions and branding support. One young judge said that BBQ sauce was their favourite part because it was "nice and sweet" while another added that the wrap was "so nice and tasty that I would definitely have some more".
Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
Maiale Meatballs Pasta Meal
0800 458 7898
MAIN COURSES & CENTRE OF PLATE
Classic Cuisine - Toad in the Hole
Judges praised the Toad in the Hole dish for its home-made appearance and good flavour. They also thought it was "good value for money" and predicted that it would be a "good seller and popular option". Making it easy for caterers to serve this popular dish, this product comprises three Cumberland sausages in a Yorkshire pudding batter made with wheat flour. It is supplied uncooked and can be prepared in various types of oven for a home-cooked appearance. With just a four-and-a-half minute cooking time, the judges observed that the dish would provide a fast turn around time for busy caterers. They also added that it is "impressive for a frozen dish" and offers "a good twist on a classic dish", plus that it provides "an enormous portion size".
Luxury Fish Pie
3G Food Service
3G Select Florentine Fish Pie
0870 850 5213
MEAT, GAME, POULTRY & FISH
Brown and Forrest - Side of Smoked Salmon
Judges raved about this "fantastic" product that was "spot on", "not too oily" and had a "subtle smell that didn't dominate the flavour". The Freedom Food-accredited Loch Duart sustainable fish farm in Sutherland rears salmon in low volumes to produce fish of a consistently high quality. The salmon is wet-cured with salt, water and whisky, and laid on racks rather than hung vertically as in traditional methods. It is then infused for 20 hours with cold smoke generated from a slow-burning trail of native oak dust. The salmon is delivered as a whole side on a daily basis, allowing restaurants to slice it to their own requirements. Another judge liked the colour of the fish which he described as "not too bright, not too pale", adding: "The passion really shows in this product".
Brown & Forrest
Non-Fry Chicken Mini Fillet
0800 085 2749
3G Food Service and Seafood Solutions
Natural Smoked Halibut
0870 850 5213
SOFT DRINKS & JUICES
Bottlegreen Drinks Co - Elderflower Cordial
Hand-picked elderflowers are combined with Cotswold spring water to create what the judges described as a "gentle", "natural tasting" and "cleansing" soft drink. Created according to traditional winemaking techniques, Bottlegreen's Elderflower Cordial is supplied in a stylish conical glass bottle that would not look out of place on back bar displays for operators to serve as an alternative to alcoholic drinks. Judges added that the "refreshing" and "versatile" elderflower cordial "didn't taste as sugary as other cordials" and really showed the "delicate flavour of elderflower". The cordial can be served with still or sparkling water, or used as an ingredient in a cocktail or food recipe, such as a sorbet, as one judge pointed out.
Bottlegreen Drinks Co
Britvic Soft Drinks
0118 930 6666
020 7349 4922
Fresh Passionfruit, Grape and Orange Juice
0870 833 8732
STARTERS, SIDE ORDERS & BUFFET PRODUCTS
Millifoods - Asparagus and Gruyère Crown
Judges were pleased with every aspect of this meat-free dish from its "hand-made appearance" and "nice balance of cheese" to the "pleasant after taste". The Asparagus and Gruyère Crown is made with traditional puff pastry boasting more than 100 laminations to guarantee a successful puff. Judges noted that there was plenty of filling in the crown that was "well seasoned" and they were also impressed by the inclusion of asparagus tips. The asparagus filling accounts for 55% of the dish and includes asparagus (21%), crème fraîche (16%), Gruyère cheese (14%) and vegetarian Italian hard cheese. Each Gruyère Crown is filled and formed by hand and is best served hot from the oven.
Excellent food and drink products are the key to keeping our industry fresh, exciting and up to date, so it's inspiring to see so many high-quality entries and deserved winners in this year's Excellence in Food and Drink Awards.
Suppliers and producers are currently facing increasing pressure from customers to deliver high-quality products that meet changing tastes, lifestyles, special diets and attitudes. It's clear from the standard of entries that our industry is collectively rising to these challenges, delivering new and innovative products that accurately reflect the needs of the end-user.
We are delighted to congratulate all the winners on their success at this year's awards, and also all the entrants who have shown their commitment to excellence and continuous improvement. The commitment demonstrated by the winners to excellence is outstanding and should be commended.
3663 First for Foodservice is proudly sponsoring these awards for the sixth consecutive year because we believe that quality and excellence are attributes every food and drink company should be striving for. These awards give companies who are producing winning products a platform to showcase their successes and achievements, providing encouragement and inspiration to others in the industry.
Andy Kemp, 3663 group sales director