Allergen-aware foods, vegan-friendly, hemp-based products, and gin and vodka handcrafted from sheep milk are among innovative foods which have made the finals of the New Zealand Food Awards.
The awards have celebrated New Zealand manufactured products, focusing on innovation and excellence since 1987.
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Sponsored by the Massey University, they are open to small and large food and beverage manufacturers, primary food producers, food service providers and ingredient supply companies.
Sixty individual products from 48 companies are finalists in 10 categories and one category winner will be named the supreme award winner at a gala dinner in Auckland in October.
The finalists include several winners from previous years - Barker's of Geraldine, Blue Frog Breakfast and The Pure Food Co - as well as new products including goat sausages and freeze-dried honey.
Massey Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas said the university's connection to the New Zealand food industry dated back to its inception as an agricultural college, in 1927, and its patronage of the New Zealand Food Awards dates back to the awards' inception 60 years later.
"Through our excellent industry-engaged research and teaching, Massey has a key role in the success of the industry," said said.
"It is particularly good, therefore, to be able to support the innovators and success stories through these awards and we are extremely proud of the role the awards have had in recognising the excellence and importance of our world-class food and beverage industry.
"The standard of this year's entries was, again, outstanding and the calibre and innovation of the finalists reflects the thought, care and artistry of the producers," said Professor Thomas.
The New Zealand Food Awards judging panel includes celebrity judges Bite magazine's Ray McVinnie, chef Geoff Scott and World Kitchen television host and chef Nici Wickes.
Plant-based product entries were up this year, as well as vegan products, food with hemp-based elements and allergen-aware foods such as dairy-free and gluten-free.
"I guess that's a real reflection of where we see the interests in the New Zealand consumer driving that," said judge, Geoff Scott
"Food companies are responding with a push towards a lot of plant-based food products this time around - much more than last year,"he said.
Judge Nici Wikces said sustainable packaging was also a highlight this year.
"We're noticing a lot of packaging that looks really great. I remember five or six years ago the packaging was almost rudimentary, it's much better now," she said.
We're also seeing a definite trend of people really looking at sustainability, a lot more compostable packaging," said Wickes.
Last year's supreme award winner was The Whole Mix Co. Limited for its vegetable noodle range.
The company, owned by Marton-based Spiers Foods, also won the Massey University Health and Wellbeing Award, and the James & Wells Business Innovation Award.