Ten organisations and individuals from Argyll to Orkney are celebrating following the announcement of the winners of the prestigious Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards for 2011 in Inverness last Friday (21 October). The Awards, organised by the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Forum, and supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), recognise the best use of local food and drink, healthier food and drink, good environmental practice, innovation, businesses working in collaboration with each other, as well as new products and new businesses.
The Orkney Fishermen's Society received the coveted Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Excellence Award, an award presented by the judges recognising excellence in any one category.
Ian McWilliams of Keltic Seafare and Lucy Midgley-Smith of the Crannag Bistro are joint winners of the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards Young Ambassador of the Year for 2011. Considering both to have excelled in their contribution to the industry to date, the judges agreed a joint award rewards both for their superb efforts.
The popular Highlands & Islands Restaurant of the Year Award was awarded to The Summer Isles Hotel in Achiltibuie, Ross-shire.
The Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Stewart Stevenson, addressed guests at the Awards, which was hosted by BBC Scotland presenter, Catriona Shearer.
Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson said: "The Highland and Islands Food and Drink Awards are a key date in the food and drink industry calendar, and are a valuable celebration of the hard work and dedication which goes into producing the high quality products available throughout the region. I would like to congratulate all those companies nominated and I was delighted to present the Excellence award to the Orkney Fishermen's Society in recognition of their particular achievements in the crab processing field."
Mr Stevenson continued: "The food and drink sector in the Highland and Islands area makes a significant contribution to the industry and Scottish economy as a whole, contributing around £1 billion pounds per year. The importance of this sector to the government is acknowledged through our national food and drink policy, in our new economic strategy and the spending review, with the budget for food and drink being doubled at a time of hard choices. Scotland has a rich and plentiful food and drink larder and these awards help to boost its reputation as a Land of Food and Drink."
The prestigious Awards celebrating excellence and achievement in the food and drink industry of the Highlands and Islands were presented at a glittering ceremony attended by over 200 people. The Dinner menu featured Highland producers, giving guests first-hand experience of the excellent fare from the area.
Chris Taylor, Head of Tourism, Food and Drink at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: "It is great to see the mix of large and small companies involved in the Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards. All of the entrants and nominees have a shared ambition to be the best at what they do, and our sincere congratulations go to all of them. Since HIE started sponsoring the awards in 2005, many, many awards have been given out - each recognising the superb quality of produce and the calibre of people who produce it right across our region. These companies are at the forefront of an industry which consistently is among the best in the world in terms of quality and innovation."
Quintin Stevens, Co-Chair of the Highlands and Islands Food & Drink Forum, said: "The Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Forum is delighted to see the record number of entries for the Awards this year, clear evidence of the high standards of the food and drink industry in the Highlands and Islands. It's great to see our Highlands and Islands producers diversifying, developing new products and in places re-inventing to fit the markets available especially in times of global downturn and political mayhem. On behalf of the Forum, I would like to thank all the individuals and businesses shortlisted for this year's event. Congratulations to them for achieving a place on the shortlist against strong competition, and special congratulations are due to all the winners."
Quintin continued: "I'd also like to thank all of the sponsors and supporters who make the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards possible."
More information on the Awards and a full list of winners is available at www.hifoodanddrinkawards.com.