Kiwis could be getting more adventurous with their ice-cream flavours with an increased number of savoury and plant-based entries at the recent New Zealand Ice Cream Awards  – but Vanilla still holds gold.

A panel of 17 lucky judges licked, slurped and sampled their way through 316 ice-cream entries to find New Zealand’s best ice-creams, gelatos, sorbets and dairy-free frozen products.

Chief judge Jackie Matthews says the increase in savoury entries could be attributed to the popular television show MasterChef.

“Recently TV’s MasterChef has been incorporating ice-creams and gelatos in main course dishes and some of those entered in the NZ Ice Cream Awards this year would fit well in there, showing ice-cream can be enjoyed any time. Also noticeable was an increase in plant-based and low-fat options over last year’s entries.”

These included gelato flavours in the open creative category such as bacon and maple with chocolate, cream cheese and asparagus and maple roasted parsnip.

Matthews said the plant-based entries were becoming ‘more polished,’ with some of the entries mimicking traditional dairy ice-cream very well.

Overall, the quality of the ice-cream presented to the judges had also improved said Matthews.

“One of the objectives of the awards is to raise the overall industry standard and New Zealand made ice-cream has been of world-class quality for many years. This year the gelato and sorbet were excellent, and also truly world-class.”

Fourteen of the country’s best ice-creams and gelatos were selected as the champions with Much Moore Awesome Vanilla Ice Cream and Lewis Road Creamery’s Double Mint and Dark Chocolate Ice Cream taking out the top two accolades.

“Trophy winners have perfected all aspects of their product, including ingredients used, recipes, processing controls, packing, and freezing. It’s the attention to detail in every aspect and bringing it together with the right balance which achieves excellence,” says Matthews.

The awards, owned and run by the NZ Ice Cream Manufacturers Association, have been held since 1997 and are the country’s only national ice-cream, gelato, sorbet and dairy-free frozen products competition.