Entry to the Taste of Kent Awards is now open!
On Friday 12th January the nationally acknowledged Taste of Kent Awards (TOKA) presented its 2024 award programme at a packed launch event at The Yarrow in Broadstairs. Sponsored by EKC Group the event was attended by the great and the good of the Kent food industry, previous winners and finalists, as well as influential industry figures from across the UK including Kent champion and Co-host of the awards Julie Maddocks.
Also in attendance were headline sponsor Southeastern, Event Sponsor University of Kent, judging day sponsor Jestic Food Service, and category sponsors Brachers, Crowe, Digitom, GrowUp Farms, kff, NFU Mutual Ashford, Tenterden & Whitfield, Oxbury, Port of Dover, Shepherd Neame, Social Enterprise Kent, Southern Co-op and University of Greenwich, without whose support the awards would not be able to take place.
Now in its 19th year, TOKA celebrates the best food and drink of Kent, shining a spotlight on the region’s excellence in producing, selling and serving fine quality Kentish produce. Open to any food and drink business located in Kent and Medway, the awards are the longest running, and most prestigious food and drink awards in the South East. Following the format introduced last year, businesses can self-nominate, and they do not have to be members of Produced in Kent to enter. Entries will open from TODAY and close on the 23rd February 2024.
Produced in Kent have been hosting the Taste of Kent Awards since its inception, CEO Floortje Hoette explains the significance of the awards: “The launch is always an exciting moment in the TOKA awards programme – it is a joy to have so many inspiring foodie entrepreneurs in the room and the anticipation builds instantly; what fantastic products will come through this year? The awards offer a unique opportunity to showcase the excellent food and drink scene in our county and can help elevate local businesses onto the national stage.”
Once the entries close, a rigorous judging process will follow, led by foodie celebrity Nigel Barden and his panel of expert industry judges, such as John Farrand, MD at The Guild of Fine Food and the English wine expert Clive Barlow MW. Finalists in the awards competition are announced in May 2024, and the winners crowned during a full day of celebrations on the 13th June at the University of Kent. Last year, a TOKA Food & Drink Festival was held on the day of the awards, to allow the finalists to sample and sell their products to the general public and showcase in front of invited buyers. The festival proved a resounding success and will return this year in the Collyer Ferguson Hall at the University. The awards ceremony itself will take place in the evening at the Gulbenkian Arts Centre with a Kentish buffet and plenty of networking opportunities.
The entry process is simple, food and drink businesses can nominate themselves. Floortje explains: “With the public vote replaced by a self-nomination process, all entries are assessed by expert judges and individual constructive feedback is given where possible – which helps businesses further develop their product. We know that our bronze, silver and gold awards make a big difference to brand awareness, sales and footfall, which is just what our food and drink sector needs. We are so proud of the quality that comes out of Kent and Medway and we want to shout about it as loud as we can”
The awards are a huge boost to the industry and the teams behind the products. Previous winner Simon Maynard, Head Butcher at Macknade says: “Winning an award has meant a lot to us as a butchery that is striving to not only produce great quality, but also carry a passion for local products with provenance and traceability. It has given our team a massive boost as well as gaining more customers. I would highly recommend others to enter the awards.”
Will Edge, founder of Greensand Ridge Distillery adds: “An expert-judged award from a recognised brand is the best value marketing spend I could make, and as an external validation of quality, probably the most effective as well.”
Entries are now open, visit Taste of Kent Awards to enter.
Dates for the Diary:
12th January: Entries Open
23rd February: Entries Close
March to May: Judging takes place
May: Finalists announced
13th June: Winners announced at awards ceremony held at Gulbenkian Arts Centre, University of Kent
Entries are £20 + Vat for Produced in Kent members and £45 + Vat for non-members.