Why entering food awards could make your business a winner

By Caroline Dawson

Putting your food business in the spotlight might seem daunting, but getting shortlisted, and potentially even winning, an award can be an excellent way of promoting your business, boosting sales and finding new markets.

With experience of being a judge for the Great Taste Awards, and a background running an award-winning events catering business, Promar Sustainability consultant Caroline Dawson shares her tips on putting together a successful entry.

Why should you enter

Through my own experience as a judge for the Great Taste Awards and in my previous catering career, I’ve seen first-hand the benefits that entering awards can have on a food and drink business.

Apart from anything else, sitting down and putting an entry together can really help you gather your thoughts about what your business have achieved, and where you would like to see it go next.

But there are also bigger positives that are worth considering. Awards are trusted by retailers and consumers alike, and that trust could open doors to new market opportunities, potentially increasing sales.

Awards can also be an important part of your marketing plan and a cost-effective way of gaining attention thanks to positive media coverage and social media, while being shortlisted can also lead to invites to trade shows, high profile events and awards ceremonies.

Choosing the right award

First thing first, it’s important that you pick an award that suits you and your business.

Search online and you’ll find a wide variety of competitions on offer, ranging from the general, which can cover any food product, to the specialised, such as cheese, ale, gluten-free or vegan.

You might want to consider a specific product award – particularly if you’ve got a particular product you’re incredible proud of and want to shout about. Or if you’re interested in promoting your wider brand, a whole business award might better suit your goals.

Awards also vary across different scales, ranging from smaller local or regional competitions, through to national and international awards. Which one you choose depends on your business and what you hope to gain from entering and raising your business’ profile.

Getting your entry right

So you might be sold on the idea of entering an award, but before you jump into writing those entries it’s worth taking a few moments to plan your next steps.

Many awards come with a price tag to enter (and awards ceremonies can be costly too) so entering multiple competitions can quickly become expensive. Think about whether there are perhaps one or two wards that you really want to focus on this year, and prioritise which ones you want to enter first.

Most competitions have a strict deadline, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to fill in the application, and if possible get someone else to read it over and check it before you send it in.

Another important aspect to think about before you fill out an application is logistics: How are you going to transport your product to be judged? Will it go through the post, via a courier or can you deliver it in person?

You need your product to arrive fresh and in the best condition possible, so make sure you give plenty of thought to how your package your produce, and include any serving or preparation instructions that might be needed.

Preparing to win

Obviously the goal of entering any award is to get shortlisted and win, but it’s worth thinking about the impact getting nominated for an award could have on your business.

For example, if you get shortlisted and interest in your product increases, could you meet demand? And if you need to increase production, can you be sure that you can maintain that award-winning quality?

It’s also worth thinking about the potential costs that could be associated with winning. For example, if you plan to use the competition’s logo on your produce, does that come at a cost? And have you factored in the costs of buying additional promotional merchandise to promote any awards you do win?

Remember to have fun

As with anything, there will always be a degree of luck when you enter an award, so it’s important not to get too hung up on winning, or too despondent if you don’t get shortlisted.

Most awards offer feedback, so it’s a great opportunity to build on the comments received and perhaps even consider making tweaks to your products or business operation.

Each judge will look for different things and each one will have a different opinion, so trying to impress everyone can be a big ask.

The important thing is to use awards as an opportunity to look at what you and your business is doing well, and above all, to have fun. Good luck!