The Scottish Excellence Awards are an opportunity for the country to showcase its products and new companies are keen to take part

A larder-trimmed loin of Scottish wild venison has scooped the top prize in this year’s Scottish Food and Drink Excellence Awards, giving a major boost to the country’s wild venison industry.

Highland Game of Dundee, which has been one of the drivers behind the Scottish Quality Wild Venison Assurance Scheme, also won the retail meat category in the awards. The judges were impressed by the consumer proposition developed by Highland Game. Its1kg fillet, which sells for £29, is packed in an attractive presentation box and is said to be ideal for a dinner party of 6-8 people. The company offers a complete next day delivery service. Last October, the larder-trimmed loin was selected for the main course at the Roux Scholarships 21st Anniversary Dinner at Gleneagles.

Highland Game has recognised the growing consumer demand for healthy food, said the judges, and is providing a premium product that is nutritious, high in protein and minerals, but low in cholesterol and saturated fat.

A hill to table approach to quality also went down well with the judges. They point out that the company aims to supply the best quality wild venison on the market, with the meat sourced from approved suppliers who can provide full traceability.

The Scottish Food and Drink Excellence Awards are organised jointly and co-sponsored by the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland and Scottish Food and Drink in association with Scottish Enterprise. Other major sponsors included The Grocer, Scottish Development International and the Scottish Executive’s Healthy Living Campaign.

This year’s awards attracted more than 130 entries with 53 products shortlisted in 16 categories. Many of the entries this year came from new companies.

Judges for the awards were Ed Bedington, market edge editor The Grocer; Simon Blunt, senior development chef, Brake Brothers; Jennifer Bryson, senior executive, food and drink, Scottish Enterprise; Tony Jackson, director of catering, Aviemore Highland Resort; and Sarah Mackie, senior product developer, Safeway.

The 2004 awards were presented this week at a gala dinner at Stirling Castle in Edinburgh attended by many of the leading companies and individuals in the Scottish food and drink industry.

RHASS director Gareth Baird says the awards demonstrate the ways in which Scottish food and drink companies are innovating and striving for excellence.

Maggie McGinlay, director of food and drink at Scottish Enterprise, agrees and adds: “There is a real climate of innovation and flair within the industry at the moment. The awards give us the chance to take stock of the industry’s achievements.”

Retail - Soup, Preserve, Pickle and Sauce
Range of Conserve Relishes
Buccleuch Heritage Foods
Versatility is the key to these products which can be consumed as a relish, spread, sauce, marinade, seasoning or recipe ingredient.There are five flavours - apple & ginger, chilli & honey, spiced apricot & banana, plum & port, mulled cranberry.

Retail - Fruit or Vegetable (including Vegetarian)
Pure & Pronto Vegetarian Organic Ready Meals
Simply Organic
Range of five vegetarian organic ready meals created to meet consumer demand for convenience without compromise on health. Products are all vegetable/pulse based stews, providing a hearty meal heated in the microwave in minutes and offering at least three of the recommended five daily servings of fruit/vegetables.

Retail - Dairy, Confectionery & Snacking
Orange and Passion Fruit Vibrant
Mackie’s of Scotland
This unique sherbet product is made like a sorbet but with a little milk to deliver the tangy, refreshing quality of a sorbet and the smoothness of an ice cream. Health benefits include low fat (98% fat free) and lower calories (less than 100kcal per serving). It contains a drop of orchid flower essence, intended to relieve stress - integral to the brand’s positioning as ‘good mood food’.

Retail - Meat (Red, White & Game)
Whole Loin of Scottish Wild Venison
Highland Game
Venison is sourced from specially selected and approved suppliers and processed at Highland Game, the only wild game processing plant accredited with Scottish Quality Wild Venison Assurance Certification. The larder-trimmed loin comes in an exclusive presentation box and is ideal for a dinner party for 6-8 people. It boasts of being prime quality from hill to plate.

Retail - Bakery and Cereal-based product
Scottish Fruit Preserve Range of Shortbread Biscuit
Dean’s of Huntly
Four premium shortbread biscuit products - Apple Crumble, Raspberry & Oatmeal, Orange Marmalade & Oatflake, Lemon Curd & Oatflake. A combination of shortbread know-how with traditional sweet favourites, the range is aimed at the ‘time poor, money rich’consumer wishing to purchase indulgent food products either for themselves or as a gift.

Retail - Drink (Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic)Beefeater Wet Gin
Allied Distillers
Designed to be more flavoursome than vodka and more palatable than conventional gin, the world’s first ‘wet gin’ is a blend of gin and natural pear extracts. Distinctive label and bottle design ensures the product stands out on the shelf or bar gantry. The product’s main market is the USA with a focus on style bars and restaurants.

Foodservice - Bakery & PastryConnoisseurs Choice Sandwiches
Food Partners
A choice of wedges, bloomers and hot and cold eating ciabattas with innovative breads, fillings and new combinations such as crayfish, lime mayonnaise and rocket on malted wheatgrain bread, designed by the company’s development chefs. The range comes in an attractive packaging format for a fresh offer and a strong on-shelf impact.

Foodservice - Confectionery/Ice Cream/Dessert
Chocolate Mudslide
Macphie of Glenbervie
Part of the Sheer Indulgence range, this glossy chocolate fudge sauce is best served hot, although it can be served cold. Used for serving over ice cream, chocolate fudge cake and similar desserts. Like other products in the range, it has an 18-month shelf life.

Foodservice - Starter/Buffet/Appetiser
Thai Ginger Fish Brochettes
Trawlpac Seafoods
High quality strips of skinless, boneless Silver Smelt fish fillets skewered onto bamboo sticks, lightly coated with a spicy Thai ginger seasoning with chopped coriander. Each brochette weighs 50 gms and is 95% fish fillet. Silver Smelt are caught by Scottish fishermen in deep water areas. It’s a healthy option as the species is a recognised oily fish.

Foodservice - Main Course inc Vegetable & Accompaniment
Range of Chutneys, Sauces, Relishes and Dressings
Ancient Recipes
These products use the freshest of ingredients from sister company Solway Veg and are free from artificial flavourings, colourings and preservatives. Traditional open pan method of cooking ensures excellent taste. The current range includes 40 products with others in development for a specific customer brief. The market is sandwich and food manufacturers.

Export - Product Entering Multi-Markets
Drumgray Highland Cream Fudge
Gardiners of Scotland
Although Gardiners have used single malt whiskies in previous products, they had never used a liqueur based on a blend of single malt and cream. The company worked with Drumgray Distillery for two years to develop the fudge which is aimed at the niche market gift trade. It is currently exported to 18 countries.

Export - New Product Entering Single Market
Pre-Packed Live Oysters In The Shell
Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group
Developed for a Swiss supermarket group seeking a product for the pre-packed chilled shelf. The challenge was to create the right conditions and packaging to ensure the oysters arrived in Switzerland in top condition, with at least seven days’ shelf life. This is a high quality Scottish product now providing an excellent eating experience for Swiss consumers.

Children’s Product
Blackcurrant Buzz
Golden Casket Group
Sweets with a fruity blackcurrant taste and an added buzz. This new flavour to the company’s Millions brand is available in weigh-out jars, tubes and mini-tubes. The company aims to grow the brand with the new flavour and not simply cannibalise sales in the highly competitive children’s market place.

Direct Marketing Development
Range of Ready to Cook En Croute Dishes
Donald Russell Direct
The six products include top quality beef, lamb and salmon presented in portion sizes for individuals or for entertaining. The combination of home delivery, quality and unique recipes has given the range a competitive edge. The products are specially packaged to ensure perfect condition on delivery with boxes containing a useful factsheet on how to cook the product.

Healthy Eating
Natural Fruit & Beverage Co
An orange juice drink with Omega 3 branded as Supajus - the think drink. A functional drink that is 50% pure orange juice and designed to deliver around 50% of the recommended daily dose of DHA (docosahexaenoic acids). Specific target consumers are pregnant women, young mothers and children.