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The annual North East Scotland Food and Drink awards announce their winners

By David Porter

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There was double delight for both Rothienorman based Mackie's and Kinellar's Forest Farm, The Organic Dairy as winners of the North East Scotland Food and Drink awards were announced.

Mackies products have diversified over the year's into crisps and chocolate ranges helping them to build a strong export market.
Mackies products have diversified over the year's into crisps and chocolate ranges helping them to build a strong export market.

Now in their 30th year, circumstances dictated that this year's North East Scotland Food and Drink Awards final announcement would be somewhat different to the glitzy affair of previous years.

However modern technology brought together finalists from across Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray for a live video presentation of the winners in the awards categories.

Host Euan McIlwraith said: "This is of course not the awards we thought we would be bringing you but the organisers thought long and hard about what to do.

"We all appreciate that it is a very challenging time for the food and drink industry, including of course for all our finalists.

"But we are keen to take a moment out to celebrate those who are working hard to serve customers at this time.

"The awards show what a depth and great range the north-east has to offer.

"We are entering uncharted territory and hope to emerge at the other side to grow the industry in the north-east.

The awards are delivered in partnership by private sector economic development leadership group Opportunity North East (ONE) and Aberdeenshire Council and over the last three decades the awards have showcased the products and achievements of food and drink producers of all sizes and at all stages, welcoming entries from both established and new businesses and recognising the achievements and successes of the entrepreneurial food and drink community.

Throughout their history the Awards have seen many of Scotland’s most prominent food and drink producers, including Mackie’s of Scotland, Associated Seafoods Ltd, Dean’s, Donald Russell, Mackintosh of Glendaveny, Joseph Robertson (Aberdeen) Ltd and Summerhouse Drinks, take home the coveted titles.

The first award to be made went to the Most Successful Product from 2019 which was awarded to Peterhead based Brew Toon for their M’ango Unchained beer which pipped fellow finalists Dean’s for their Steven Brown Art All Butter Shortbread Gift Tins and Summerhouse Drinks' Winter Spice soda.

On the award Brew Toon's Cameron Bowden said: "It's great, it's a real boost for the company especially at the moment.

"It gives us confidence in our products going forward, it's really just brilliant.

"We currently have stockists across Scotland, but with an accolade like this behind us we're hoping we can maybe push further afield and get our products across the UK.

"It's been really difficult recently with all the bars closing, but we have had great support from the local community buying our products online and we're incredibly grateful for that."

The longest running category in the 30 year history of the awards is the Best Retail Product, which is in the judges words, always fiercely contested and provides a catalyst for growth for companies.

This year's winner was Kinellar based Forest Farm, The Organic Dairy for their Handcrafted Artisan Gelato and Sorbet which was prasied both for its flavour and the innovation shown by the company in diversification.

There was also a double win for Forest Farm for their Soil to Sale Sustainability scheme which saw them claim the Sustainability Award.

Forest Farm's Angus Willis said:" It was a really nice surprise.

" It's brilliant for the farm and the team, there's been a lot of hard work.

" We have a number of plans in the pipeline, some new products which we haven't announced yet so that's something for our customers to look out for!

" We are working with a new Aberdeenshire cheese maker, the Cheese Bothy, who are making a range of cheeses using our milk and it's delicious!

" That was meant to launch this month but we have decided to push it back given the current situation."

Best Retail Product (large business) went to International Fish Canners (Scotland) for their Sainsbury Taste the Difference Hot Smoked Mackerel which was compliment on being both a successful product and for showing the companies response to growth trends in the market to bring new flavours to consumers.

Kinloss based WooHa Brewing Company won out against strong competition in the Best Brewed Product category with their Speakeasy Champagne Beer which was lauded for the overall concept, stand out taste and the unusual styling coupled with a strong marketing drive from the company which backed up its launch.

Top honours in the Best Distilled Product went to Nick and Emma Smalley from Udny Green, owners of the Teasmith Spirit Company for their Broich Single Estate gin.

The unique gin is distilled with Scottish grown tea leaves as part of the 12 botanicals which make up its balance of taste and texture.

Teasmith Company owner Nick Smalley said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive the award which comes at an especially challenging time for business.

"Broich Single Estate Gin was a really important product for us.

"It was our first extension of the brand after the successful release of The Teasmith Original.

"And whilst a lot of other producers were making heavily flavoured products, we decided to stick to our roots and create another truly classic style of gin that reflected the flavours that the unique Scottish-grown tea provided.

"The opportunity to make the world’s first gin with Scottish grown tea couldn’t be missed and we really wanted to be the first to do it.”

Best Food Service Product was awarded to Sutherlands of Portsoy for their Traditional Smoked Salmon cured with Glenglassaugh Torfa Whisky while the Best Young Business title was awarded to the Rora Dairy

Hotly contested, the Food and Drink Business Growth award saw six companies go head to head, all of whom have shown considerable growth.

Given the variation in size and products, the overall winner award went to Mackie's of Scotland with commendation made to Inverurie based Angus and Oink for the progress made from scratch just four years ago.

Impressed by the enthusiasm of the business and investment in a unique immersive experience, the Best Food and Drink Tourism Experience was awarded to the Lost Loch for their Spirit School.

Looking to the future of the industry, the Investing in Skills Development award went to meat processors Donald Russell of Kintore for their continued programme of development and improvement.

Innovation in the industry was celebrated with the Innovation award, presented to Farmlay Eggs of Strichen for the automated tray hygeine system.

Mackies of Scotland claimed a second title as winners of the Export Business of the Year for their international efforts.

Marketing Director at Mackies of Scotland, Karin Hayhow, said: “Many of us were able to virtually attend the North East Scotland Food and Drink Awards – online video yesterday afternoon. "We’d like to thank the organisers for this innovative way for everyone to enjoy the cancelled awards ceremony.

"We were absolutely delighted to recieve a double win !

“ With our export sales increasing by 78 per cent and two million tubs of ice cream shipped to Asia from Aberdeen, we won Export Business of the Year.

"We also won the award for Food and Drink Business Growth, showcasing our continuous quest to add value and diversify with the Mackies of Scotland brand.

“ These awards provide recognition for all our staff, it is their hard work and tenacity which has made it possible to develop and build sales internationally and at home.

"Of course, a little good news is particularly welcome just now and it has definitely put a smile back on our faces!

“ We’d like to extend our congratulations to all of the finalists and award winners, the array of Food and Drink which is all made in Aberdeenshire is truly inspiring and mouthwatering.”

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