It was all about celebrating the best of the best this year at the New Zealand Food Awards, with a distinctly local flavour taking out the top prize.

The Wild Fermentary from Clevedon won the Massey University Supreme Award for its Smoky Kāpeti product as well as the Chilled Award.

Specialising in fermented goods, The Wild Fermentary uses ingredients such as dandelion, stinging nettle, nasturtium and pūhā for its ferments.

Awards head judge Kay McMath says the Smoky Kāpeti is a celebration of the evolving New Zealand fermentation scene.

“This is a powerful New Zealand food story and hits the perfect balance between the traditional art and the modern science of fermentation. The Wild Fermentary have used wild foraged pūhā that is dehydrated to extend its season, locally grown jalapenos and a natural wild fermentation process that is carefully monitored and adjusted to enable bold flavours with minimal variances.

“The company ensures all parts of the ingredients are utilised in some way and has established flexible ways of working to enable members of the wider community to participate in production. Innovative, sustainable and truly excellent, this product is unique and exciting.”

Immunity-boosting foods such as fermented goods are growing in popularity as consumers continue to look for products that will improve their health.

Chief scientist at Plant and Food Research, Richard Newcomb, said last year in a HotSource column that emerging fermentation technologies could charter new ground in developing novel products with taste, texture and health properties and provide new opportunities for New Zealand food producers and manufacturers.

Massey University vice-chancellor Professor Jan Thomas says it was exciting to host the first ever virtual New Zealand Food Awards celebration.

“While it was disappointing to not be able to host the awards in Manawatū as originally planned, we are hopeful next year we will be able to celebrate together in Palmerston North, another first for the awards.

“The awards might look a little different this year, but the sentiment remains the same. You are the best of the best.”

There were more than 170 entries this year, with 66 finalists from 45 different companies across the country.