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Entries open for Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards. Returning for 2019, the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards are calling for entries from food and drink businesses across the region.

The sixteen categories are open for nominations. Entries can be made online at www.hifoodanddrinkawards.com before the closing date of the 3rd of July.

Primary producers are in the spotlight for this year’s awards. The new category of Primary Agricultural Producer of the Year is celebrating farmers, crofters and all primary agricultural producers who have also been involved in developing a food or drink product beyond the farm gate.

Uniqueness of the product, plans for growth and sustainability are key factors that will be considered during the judging process.

Wellness was named as a key trend for Scotland in 2019. The primary producer category is a nod to this trend and celebrates the quality of produce found across the Highlands and Islands.

John Scott, member of the award’s steering group, the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Award’s Ambassador in 2018 and Owner and Manager at Fearn Farm, near Tain, said: “It is great to see primary producers being recognised at the Highlands and Islands Food & Drink Awards this year as they add the new category of Primary Agricultural Producer of the Year to the line-up. The contribution of primary producers to the industry is significant so it is important that we celebrate them. The food and drink industry in the Highlands and Islands is in an exciting place at the moment, it’s vital that we continue to work together building relationships between every link in the chain to ensure that our products get to the marketplaces they deserve, not just locally but all over the world.”

He then went on to say: “From enterprises in the early stages, to more established businesses, we are encouraging and looking forward to agricultural entries from across the Highlands and Islands. I’d highly recommend businesses from across the food and drink industry enter the awards. For me it was easy to get engrossed in the day to day activity on the farm but taking a look at what’s happening beyond the farm gate can be invigorating and winning this award has allowed me to do this further.”

Other categories that are available to enter include the Innovation Award sponsored by MacRoberts LLP, Sustainability Award and Export Award sponsored by XPO Logistics.

The awards are supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). Elaine Jamieson, Head of Food and Drink at HIE said: “HIE are delighted to again support the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards.  The region has much to be proud of when it comes to food and drink. It is no surprise that we have an enviable reputation associated to provenance, people, place and culture. I encourage every food and drink business in the Highlands and Islands to consider entering.  The awards are a tool in the business toolbox – participation creates an opportunity for free marketing and can improve brand awareness, whilst an award is a sign of quality that creates a point of difference which sends out positive signals to customers and opens new doors.”

Previous winners at the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards have spoken of the benefits they have experienced as a result of participating in the awards.

Amanda Anderson, Sales and Marketing Manager at Isle of Barra Oysters, winners of the 2018 New Product Category, said: “Entering the awards really helped to put our product on the map and get our name out there in an extremely positive way. The event itself is also a superb networking opportunity, talking to like-minded producers, potential customers and curious journalists! I would say don’t think twice, enter your product, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain!”

Winners will be revealed at the prestigious awards ceremony at Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness on 15th November. Tickets will be available to buy later on in the year.

Follow the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink awards on their social media to keep up to date with the latest news and announcements. Find them on @hifooddrink

For further information on the categories and to apply, visit www.hifoodanddrinkawards.com