What a privilege it was to judge the Guild of Fine Food’s Great Taste Awards. We will have to wait until 9 September to learn the identity of 2013’s Supreme Champion - although I have a strong hunch, my lips are sealed - but I do know the product will be stupendous to triumph among such tough competition.
These highly respected awards attracted no fewer than 9,800 entries, up 11% on last year, an encouraging indicator of the dynamism of the small-scale food sector. The portfolio of food and drink up for judging was rich and diverse, offering many refreshingly original products to complement traditional favourites. Zingy sea buckthorn jelly organic Jersey milk gelato, fragrant with acacia, orange and rosemary water biscuits flecked with seaweed memorable grass-fed Shorthorn beef rib treacly walnut and raisin soda bread a dreamy natural yoghurt with a palate-pleasing cream line vibrant blackcurrant curd a cider with the bouquet of just-pressed apples and 9,792 more - the line-up was a knockout.
It was engrossing to judge the entries as part of a panel of distinguished food writers, chefs and top food hall buyers, all of whom were well aware that independent food outlets showcase the finest, most interesting foods these days, not the supermarkets.
” Independents showcase the most interesting foods these days”
Doubtless, buyers for the big grocery chains view the Great Taste Awards as an effortless way to identify potential candidates for their ‘speciality’ ranges, rushing to their phones when the awards are announced to strike up a relationship with the winners, but the reality is that mammoth supermarkets can’t focus for long on any product that’s truly small scale.
Meanwhile, talented food producers and independent retailers have formed an alliance with consumers left cold by the homogeneity of industrialised, homogenous supermarket food, and this alliance is bringing the most astonishing and special products to our tables.
Whether you are talking farm shops, delis, farmers’ markets, or traditional butchers, an exciting food culture based around small-scale networks is thriving in the UK, one that’s totally independent of supermarkets, and all the healthier for it.
Joanna Blythman is a journalist and author of What to Eat