Five new categories have been added to this year's Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards (HIFDA) to further recognise and reward the many businesses which are excelling in this important industry sector.
Awards organisers, the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Forum, are encouraging entries from top performers in the industry in the Highlands and Islands to enter for a range of categories including Best Drink, Best Marketing Initiative, Development of Export Markets, Independent Food & Drink Retailer of the Year and Best Other Eatery Award.
Supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) the Awards are the region's most prestigious food and drinks awards celebrating excellence and achievement in the industry and recognising industry players at the top of their game.
Quintin Stevens of the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Forum said: "Around 1900 businesses operate in the food and drink supply chain and help underpin the economy in the Highlands and Islands. With some of the best natural produce in the world, the Awards showcase the wide range of food and drink products in the region and the equally diverse profile of businesses, from internationally renowned companies to small innovative producers.
"We've introduced several new awards this year to cater for and appeal to the wealth of outstanding innovation and effort we know is helping to shape the future of the industry. We hope that more businesses in the Highlands and Islands' food and drink industry will step forward this year and let the Awards help gain recognition for and promote their achievements.
"For example, there are now two eating out awards - one for the Restaurant of the Year and another for Best Other Eatery. This is to ensure that however large or small an establishment - whether a café at a garden centre or visitor centre or a deli with seats - there is a category they can enter without being up against well-established Michelin or AA star restaurants."
The Awards also recognise two Ambassadors of the industry - the Young Shining Star Award to acknowledge the younger members of the industry who show potential, enthusiasm and promise, and the Ambassador of the Year. The latter award is not open for entry as the winning individual will be chosen by industry leaders.
The remaining award categories are Environment, Healthier Food & Drink, New Business, New Product, Restaurant of the Year and the Excellence Award.
Iain Sutherland, Senior Development Manager for Food and Drink at HIE said: "The quality of our food and drink products plays a key role in defining the Highlands and Islands of Scotland to the rest of the world. HIE has been a major funder and supporter of the Awards for a number of years, and we continue to lend our support because of our belief in the potential for further development and the need to encourage and reward those businesses which contribute to an industry which is such a significant economic driver for the region."
Entries are now open until Friday, 15th June. Further information on award categories and how to enter can be found at www.hifoodanddrinkawards.com
The shortlisted finalists will be announced in September and the Awards Dinner and Ceremony to honour the winners will take place at the Drumossie Hotel in Inverness on Friday, 19th October. Tickets are £70 +VAT and can be purchased online.
Each year the event attracts over 250 representatives from the region's top food and drink businesses who gather to celebrate all that is best in the industry in the Highlands and Islands. More details of the dinner including entertainment will be issued at a later date.