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Cork Independent

Lifestyle & Leisure

The joys of hidden (culinary) treasure

Wednesday, 25th July, 2018 5:01pm

For the last few years, I have been on the judging panel for the Irish Quality Food Awards and this year was no exception.

I noticed over the last few years that it’s mostly supermarkets that are entering products – some produced by small companies, others their own brand from larger facilities. This is due to the fact that supermarkets have a higher marketing budget than artisan producers.

Over time, I have discovered some lovely products and have eaten some really bad ones. And discovering these little treasures makes the long days of judging so worth it.

Most of us are creatures of habit and tend to buy the same brands/products we are used to, so I use the judging days to get to know new products. Due to confidential agreements, I am not able to tell you what delicious products I had the pleasure of discovering this time around but please keep an eye out for the winning announcements in October.

For smaller producers to be exposed to these food awards, it can kick off their business immensely and past winners have experienced more brand awareness and even new buyers from other supermarkets.

There are different ways of judging food – some do it by blind tasting only, while others take into account packaging, provenance etc. to make a decision. We are all victims to perception, so things like packaging, branding and even the name of a product can influence our shopping habits.

For example, a few years back, I tasted some bacon that was beautiful, simply stunning but I would have ignored it in the shops because the package looked horrendous.

The feedback from the judges was that this could be a high-end product if the package would mirror the standard of the product itself.

And guess what – the producer changed the packaging and I still look out for this bacon.

It’s not just about greedy judges eating their way through some entries; very good feedback is designed to be constructive and helpful.

On the other hand – I have also tasted some really bad food and some entries I thought were taking the p*** by being submitted.

Having food experts on the panel ensures that taste, texture, ingredients etc. are considered and I am happy to say that judges were mostly in agreement of decisions.

One trend became clear through all the categories – convenience food, which includes already chopped, sliced and mashed products. It is a bit frightening that there seems to be a need for people to get everything prepared and ready-made and that they will spend even more money for the ‘comfort’.

Apart from these little faux pas, I truly enjoyed meeting the other judges, the discussions and of course, the treasures I was lucky enough to discover.


Upcoming food events:

23 – 29 July Cork Dessert Festival

29 July A Very Reggae BBQ

16 – 19 August Big Grill 2018

24 – 26 August Dalkey Lobster Festival

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