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Launch Of The First Highlands & Islands Food And Drink Awards

30th August 2005

The first Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards will be held in October 2005, and organisers are on the look-out for potential winners from any Highlands and Islands businesses linked to the food and drink sector. The awards will be given to businesses achieving excellence within the industry and will highlight those which are demonstrating innovative, forward thinking and collaborative work. The competition is open to businesses of any size, including food producers, retailers, catering establishments, restaurants and hotels that are operating in the Highlands and Islands.

The Highlands and Islands Food Forum, which was set up two years ago as a partnership between industry and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), has launched eight categories: new product, new business, innovation, health, food and environment, food tourism, marketing and export. In addition, one of the eight category winners will also receive the Ultimate Achievement / Excellence Award at a dinner which will be held at the Drumossie Hotel in Inverness on 7th October.

The awards are being funded by HIE and the private sector. The main private sector sponsor is Inverness-based Williamson Group. Dennis Overton, chair of the Highlands and Islands Food Forum, said: "The food and drink sector in the Highlands and Islands is growing a pace. Some first class new businesses have emerged over the last three to five years to join longer standing businesses in producing some of the finest food and drink products found anywhere in the UK. There is real interest in developing a stronger local food economy- offering locals and visitors alike great food and drink, full of quality and real provenance.

"The Forum has an important part to play in this process, and the Food and Drink Awards provides an opportunity to celebrate some of the tremendous innovation now underway in businesses across the area. I'm looking forward to entries from Shetland to Argyll."

Rob Clarke, senior key industries manager at HIE, said: "The food and drink sector is extremely important to the economy of the Highlands and Islands. We have a fantastic range of produce on offer in the area and these awards will be a great opportunity to recognise those businesses that are achieving excellence in their particular field. I would encourage all those working in the sector to consider putting forward an entry to what is sure to be a high-profile and exciting competition."

Gary Williamson, Managing Director of The Williamson Group Ltd, said: "We at the Williamson Group feel that there is a fantastic array of great produce originating from the Highlands and Islands and a great many good people that are advancing the local food economy. As a wholesaler that endeavours to take the best of this produce to the Highland Market place it makes perfect sense to support awards that celebrate this fact and we are delighted to be the major commercial sponsor of the awards."

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