Launching this week, there are sixteen categories - including best eatery, best marketing campaign and ambassador of the year - and entries can be made online at www.hifoodanddrinkawards.com before the closing date of the 3rd of July.
The new category of Primary Agricultural Producer of the Year will celebrate farmers, crofters and all the primary agricultural producers who have also been involved in developing a food or drink product beyond the farm gate.
Uniqueness of the product, plans for growth and sustainability are key factors that will be considered during the judging process.
John Scott, the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Award’s Ambassador in 2018 and owner and manager at Fearn Farm, near Tain, said: “It is great to see primary producers being recognised at the Highlands and Islands Food & Drink Awards this year as they add the new category of Primary Agricultural Producer of the Year to the line-up.
"The contribution of primary producers to the industry is significant so it is important that we celebrate them. The food and drink industry in the Highlands and Islands is in an exciting place at the moment, it's vital that we continue to work together building relationships between every link in the chain to ensure that our products get to the marketplaces they deserve, not just locally but all over the world.”
He stated that the awards were encouraging and looking forward to agricultural entries from all across the Highlands and Islands.
He added: "I’d highly recommend businesses from across the food and drink industry enter the awards. For me it was easy to get engrossed in the day to day activity on the farm but taking a look at what's happening beyond the farm gate can be invigorating and winning this award has allowed me to do this further.”
Other categories that are available to enter include the Innovation Award sponsored by MacRoberts LLP, Sustainability Award and Export Award sponsored by XPO Logistics.
Elaine Jamieson, head of food and drink at Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), who are spupporting the event, said: “HIE are delighted to again support the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards.
"The region has much to be proud of when it comes to food and drink. It is no surprise that we have an enviable reputation associated to provenance, people, place and culture. I encourage every food and drink business in the Highlands and Islands to consider entering.
"The awards are a tool in the business toolbox – participation creates an opportunity for free marketing and can improve brand awareness, whilst an award is a sign of quality that creates a point of difference which sends out positive signals to customers and opens new doors.”
Previous winners at the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards have spoken of the benefits they have experienced as a result of participating in the awards.
Amanda Anderson, sales and marketing manager at Isle of Barra Oysters, winners of the 2018 New Product Category, said: “Entering the awards really helped to put our product on the map and get our name out there in an extremely positive way. The event itself is also a superb networking opportunity, talking to like-minded producers, potential customers and curious journalists!
"I would say don’t think twice, enter your product, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain!”
Winners will be revealed at the prestigious awards ceremony at Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness on 15th November. Tickets will be available to buy later on in the year.
Best Drink Award:
1. Best Brewed
2. Best Distilled
3. Best Non-Alcoholic
Best Eatery Award
Best Marketing Campaign
Excellence Award sponsored by Scotland Food & Drink
Export sponsored by XPO Logistics
Food and Drink Business Growth Award sponsored by Johnston Carmichael
Healthier Food & Drink Award
Independent Food & Drink Retailer of the Year Award sponsored by Sharon Leon
Innovation Award sponsored by MacRoberts LPP
New Business Award
Primary Agricultural Producer of the Year (new for 2019) sponsored by Be Personnel
Restaurant of the Year sponsored by MacGregor Industrial Suppliers
Young Ambassador of the Year sponsored by Brook Street
Ambassador of the Year sponsored by Saffery Champness
• For further information on the categories and to apply, visit www.hifoodanddrinkawards.com