A classy product turning seafood into quality convenience fare meant a world class prize for Youngs Bluecrest ­ and Britain ­ at this year's Sial d'Or awards. Julian Hunt reports Brand development managers at Youngs Bluecrest have every right to feel on top of the world. Why? Because their Fish & Sauce range has been named the world's best seafood product in this year's Sial d'Or awards ­ beating off stiff competition from 24 countries in the process. Fish & Sauce was one of seven products entered by The Grocer into the final round of judging in this year's Sial d'Or competition.The British nominees ­ which were chosen by a panel comprising some of the UK's most senior retailers and wholesalers­ also included Guinness Draught in a bottle, Kit Kat Chunky, Yoplait Yo to Go, Birds Eye Wall's frozen herbs, Chicken Tonight Sizzle and Stir and Tesco Finest beef Wellington made for the retailer by Hazlewood Foods. Our panel of heavy hitters was chaired by David McNair, chief executive of Food from Britain, and comprised Richard Brasher, Tesco's director marketing, operations; David Messom, general manager, category buying at CWS; Morton Middleditch, Spar UK's md; Mark Price, director of sales and marketing at Waitrose; and Steve Sharp, Booker's marketing director. Their shortlist of products then competed against brands from 24 other countries in a special judging session held in Paris. Products were grouped together by categories and a jury comprising senior journalists from each country marked them on their commercial success, their innovative characteristics, and whether they met a genuine consumer need. The jury had to choose the best product in each category and the best product from each country. Many of the British entries were singled out for praise ­ with Guinness Draught in a bottle, Chicken Tonight Sizzle and Stir, and Tesco Finest Beef Wellington all drawing favourable comment. But it was Fish & Sauce that stole the show. Not only was the product runaway winner in the seafood category, it also emerged as the best British entry. What really impressed the judges about Fish & Sauce was that the product offered real convenience ­ it can be cooked from frozen in just 14 minutes ­ and was trying to build the overall market by targeting young consumers who tended to think that fish was too much hassle to prepare and cook. Figures supplied to the judging panel by Youngs Bluecrest show that Fish & Sauce generated sales of £8.5m in its first year on the market and won 82% national distribution with the major multiples. This represents a 27.7% share of what the company calls the "seafood meal centre category" ­ which it claims is growing largely because of the launch of Fish & Sauce. The product has added £2.5m in incremental sales to the frozen seafood sector ­ of which £500,000 was spent by new seafood consumers, and the rest by existing consumers spending more. Some of the other winners were just as innovative as Fish & Sauce. Kellogg's Vector, which won the grocery products category, also stood out. The product is a meal replacement in cereal form launched in Canada. Targeted at physically active people looking for new ways of gaining energy and nutrients, Vector is an excellent source of 16 vitamins, minerals, protein and complex carbohydrates. Since its launch, Vector has become the one of the most successful product launches in the history of Kellogg's Canadian operation. Canada scooped two Sial d'Ors in this year's judging, with the second award going to retailer Loblaw for its President's Choice own label microwaveable pies, which won the meat category. The use of interreacting receptors in the packaging allow the pies to cook in eight minutes from frozen and bake properly. They come out of the microwave flaky and golden ­ even though the pastry used is raw dough. Carlsberg of Denmark won the alcoholic beverages category with its unbreakable, refillable PEN bottle featuring an easy open ringpull. The pack ­ used for Carlsberg and Tuborg lagers ­ has proved to be a massive hit with Danish consumers and retailers. Denmark scored another victory with a Danaeg's liquid pasteurised egg products, which won the dairy, ice cream and eggs category. The egg products are salmonella free, free range and organic, and come in handy single portions for maximum consumer convenience. In the fruit and vegetables category, Alimentos Del Valle of Spain won an award for its Ajoblanco almond gazpacho. The soup comes in a carton with pour spout for added convenience and ­ here's the neat twist ­ has a cup' containing raisins and croutons shrink wrapped to its base. Japan also won two Sial d'Ors. The first came in the confectionery, biscuits and bread category, won by Fran chocolate biscuit snacks from Meiji Seika Kaisha. The second was in the non alcoholic beverages category. Here, the Sial d'Or went to an unusual product called Hachimitsu-Kurosu Diet from Tamanoi Vingear Co. This is a diet variant of the health vinegars popular in Japan. It contains the added calcium, vitamins and dietary fibres consumers expect, but with an "appley" taste and fewer calories than usual. The producer of this unusual brand, Young's Bluecrest and the other category winners, will receive their awards at a special ceremony taking place at the Sial exhibition in Paris in October. But the fun doesn't stop there. The international judging panel was also asked to vote for the product they considered to be the "best of the best" ­ which will be awarded the coveted global Sial d'Or prize at the Paris ceremony. So the best of British to Youngs Bluecrest ­ let's hope they can make it a hat-trick of awards! {{FEATURES }}