It looks easy when you put it down on paper. Pick the best new British product in each of a list of grocery categories and pit them against the finest the rest of the world has to offer. Easy, that is, because Britain undoubtedly has one of the most vibrant food and drink manufacturing bases in the world. The reality is that it's actually incredibly difficult. The competition on the domestic front is so fierce that it's a challenge to come up with a list in the first place. The Grocer once again bypassed the problem by handing it to a panel of experts, with more than 50 senior buyers voting for their favourite products in each category and the winners going through to the finals of the Sial d'Or judging in Paris. In short, to even be in the running for Sial's biennial awards is an achievement. To come away with an award when up against competition from 24 other countries is even more remarkable. Yet that's exactly what Guinness UDV managed when its Archers Aqua premium packaged spirit, already a roaring success on the domestic front, picked up a Sial award for the best alcoholic beverage to have been launched anywhere in the world since the last Sial International Food Products Exhibition two years ago. It was picked out by a panel of 24 judges, made up from key grocery magazine titles from around the globe, who were impressed to hear how the Schnapps-based drink had taken the UK market by storm. In particular, they were stunned to be told how the drink had proved so popular after its 2001 launch that demand had even taken the mighty Guinness UDV by surprise, with the drinks giant having to temporarily put the newcomer on allocation until it managed to ramp up production to keep pace with consumers' thirst. Judges were also impressed to learn how Guinness UDV had sold almost three million cases in the UK to date ­ more than three times early predictions ­ and how the fruit-flavoured range had been backed by a no-nonsense £17m marketing spend. But it wasn't the only British-based product to emerge a winner, with Nestlé's Nescafé-branded Hot When You Want self-heating coffee cans also earning plaudits from the panel and emerging as the best British newcomer overall, receiving even more votes than Archers Aqua. The product, which will be well known to readers of The Grocer as we were the first to reveal Nestlé's sci-fi launch last April, particularly impressed a number of judges who commented that it was the best example of self-heating technology they had seen. However, despite such praise, Nestlé's impressive offering was beaten in the best non-alcoholic beverage category by New Zealand's Ikon energy drink from Auckland-based Rio Beverages. The drink employs a novel concept in which the drink's vitamins and minerals are stored in an effervescent tablet in a specially-engineered cap. The tablet is only released into the fruit-flavoured drink when the consumer pushes a plunger. Rio argues that the system gives the drink a longer shelf life and avoids the problem of ingredients losing their potency. Overall, New Zealand emerged as the most successful country in this year's judging, adding two more awards to its portfolio. Farmer's Pride Butter Oil Mist, a spray can of butter oil for frying, baking and general cooking, won the Sial award for best new dairy product, while Biscookies was a surprise winner in the best grocery product section, winning with its Spoon Biscookies offering, a spoon-shaped biscotti biscuit covered in chocolate. Staying Down Under, Australia scooped its one and only award this year in the fruit and vegetables sector with an interesting new variety of grape' tomato ­ tiny 12g-20g versions of the standard red fruit which have proved a hit with consumers. Canada kept up its impressive record in the Sial d'Or awards by scooping the gong in meat, poultry and delicatessen meats with Loblaw Brands' President's Choice semi-boneless easy carve frozen turkey. Aimed at the consumer who considers a conventional pre-prepared bird too much hassle to contemplate, the product is a cooked 8.2lb turkey in a box. Of the other winners, frozen lobster in a clear plastic tube from Pescanova in France impressed as an innovative way to present the popular shellfish to grocery shoppers. It shared the award for best fish and seafood product with Starkist premium tuna in a pouch from the US. Germany, meanwhile, secured the award in confectionery, biscuits and bread for Storck's best-selling Campino sweet, while yogurt dish Kolay Cacik won the local and regional product award for Turkey. Danish brand Danegg won the organic section for Denmark with organic eggs and Gilde Rollerburger was the runaway winner in best catering and food services product with a hamburger in the shape of a sausage. However, despite earning praise from many of the judges assembled in Paris, there were no prizes for the rest of the British contingent ­ Masterfoods' ice cream tubs, Birds Eye's Enjoy! frozen meals, Scofish canned salmon and mackerel, Kingsmill Whole White bread, Christian Salvesen's Tendafrost and Tendafresh ready-to-cook vegetables, Tilda Rizazz microwaveable rice and Heinz Simply Fruit and Vegetables range of organic purées for babies. But the glory hasn't necessarily ended yet for Archers Aqua. As a category winner, it went into a secret ballot for the overall "best of the best" award which will be announced at the Sial exhibition in Paris in October. n {{FEATURES }}