The perks of being recognised by industry experts are on-going, say winners and finalists of the 2019 New Zealand Food Awards.

Sam Brown of The White Sheep Co, who won The Shout Alcoholic Beverages Award for his Sheep Milk and Honey Gin and Sheep Milk Vodka in October last year, said the exposure and increased visibility has been valuable, especially for a relatively new brand on the market.

“Having the promotion that came with being in the awards was positive and I think that contributed to the really strong summer period we are currently having,” he said.

“Being nominated and winning was good validation. Even though the products were on the market prior to that and the feedback had been good from consumers, it’s always good to get that validation from experts and professionals in the field of food and beverage as well.”

Brown said winning the award had added value to the brand, particularly with consumers.

“There are a lot of alcohol brands and food and beverage brands out there, so when you win a prestigious award like this one, it really helps to catch people’s attention.”

His sentiments were echoed by Sam Bridgewater, co-founder of The Pure Food Company, which won the James and Wells Business Innovation Award and the Massey University Supreme Award last year.

The company produces texture-modified products to enhance the quality of life for people with eating difficulties and was co-founded by Bridgewater and Maia Royal in 2014 after a family member of Bridgewater’s became so ill, he could no longer eat solid foods.

“[The] credibility is certainly helpful, both in New Zealand and overseas. One of the biggest things we gained from the awards was great recognition of the team’s work.”

The expert judging panel included Bite magazine’s Ray McVinnie, chef Geoff Scott and World Kitchen television host and chef Nici Wickes, along with some of New Zealand’s best technical and packaging judges.

Massey Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas, who presented the Supreme Award, congratulated all the finalists and award category winners.

“Each year we see a lift in quality and innovation that makes the job of our judges so much harder – and that is exactly what we want for success of the New Zealand food industry,” Professor Thomas said.