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Spring Sheep Milk Co, Epic Brewing and Proper Crisps clean up at 2017 New Zealand Food Awards

Food.

It's a universally acknowledged truth, but it's worth repeating: not all of it is created equal.

hence the need for things like the New Zealand Food Awards.

The winners of the 2017 New Zealand Food Awards, powered by Massey University, were unveiled on Thursday evening at a gala dinner for 380 guests at Auckland's Sky City.

This year marked the 30th anniversary of the awards, which celebrate creative innovations from New Zealand’s artisanal and large-scale food and beverage manufacturers. Twenty-two products from 22 different companies took out the top spots.

Spring Sheep Milk Co. took out the highest honour of the Massey University Supreme Award for its vanilla-flavoured sheep milk powder, which also won them the NZTE Export Innovation Award.

Nick Hammond, chief operating officer of Spring Sheep, said the award meant a lot. “Receiving the Supreme Award is massive for us, we’re a really small company trying to do really big things,” he said. “At Spring Sheep Milk Co, we’re trying to break new ground in product innovation and enter new markets, so I feel that this award is a real recognition of our whole team, and their passion for their work.”

Other companies recognised for their outstanding innovation and products included Poppy and Olive in the BITE Gourmet Award category (awarded for their chocolate hazelnut butter), Gathered Game taking out the Artisan Award for its wild venison salami and deer sticks, and Proper Crisps in the Dry Award category with its kumara chipotle and garlic crisps.

The revamped Food Safety Culture and Primary Sector Products Awards, sponsored by the Ministry for Primary Industries, were taken out by The Pure Food Co. and T&G Global Ltd. respectively. The James & Wells Business Innovation Award was presented to Original Foods Baking Co.

Massey University Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas, said that events like the Food Awards are not just important locally, but also internationally because they can help serve as a stepping stone for companies looking to export their products overseas. "As a small country, the level of innovation that we provide in terms of the food and beverage sector is incredible. We are committed to encouraging local business to continue to grow, experiment and create fantastic products, while recognising them for their efforts.”

For the third year in a row, the judging panel included food writer and cookbook author Nici Wickes, award-winning chef Geoff Scott and chef and food writer Ray McVinnie.

Scott said the diversity in products was proof that Aotearoa was coming into its own on the global stage.

McVinnie agreed. “What I love is we are starting to see some of our uniquely New Zealand ingredients coming through. Kumara being used in innovative ways, horopito, locally grown saffron, that sort of thing which I think is worth celebrating."

Joining the judging panel this year was the founder of Moa Brewing Company, Josh Scott, who is New Zealand’s first certified Cicerone (beer expert). Scott was brought on board to judge the Countdown Alcoholic Beverage Category.

He said New Zealand's beer scene was also starting to make a name for itself internationally. “While we’ve had a challenging season in terms of hop production, the craft beer culture is thriving in New Zealand,” he said. “I’d like us to reach a point where our reputation for producing top-notch real beers, is up there with our reputation for world-class wines.”

But there could only be one winner in the Alcoholic Beverage Category. The finalists included 12 entries from six different companies, and it was Epic Brewing Company’s Epic Hop Zombie IPA that won.

Winning products are eligible to use the New Zealand Food Awards Quality Mark on their packaging and advertising. The mark highlights the superiority of the products to both consumers and industry, helping to boost sales and distribution domestically and internationally.

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