Entries invited for 2024 Taste of Kent Awards

Produced in Kent CEO Floortje Hoette at the TOKA launch event Photo Stepstone Imagery

Entries are now open for the 2024 Taste of Kent Awards showcasing food and drink businesses in the county.

A packed launch event was held last night (January 11) for the 19th year of the awards at The Yarrow hotel and restaurant in Broadstairs.

Sponsored by EKC Group, the event was attended by figures from the Kent food industry, previous winners and finalists, as well as influential industry people from across the UK including Kent champion and co-host of the awards Julie Maddocks.

TOKA, organised by Produced in Kent, celebrates the best food and drink of Kent, shining a spotlight on the region’s excellence in producing, selling and serving fine quality Kentish produce. Open to any food and drink business located in Kent and Medway, the awards are the longest running in the South East.

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Following the format introduced last year, businesses can self-nominate, and they do not have to be members of Produced in Kent to enter. Entries will open from today and close on February 23.

Produced in Kent has been hosting the Taste of Kent Awards since its inception. CEO Floortje Hoette said: “The launch is always an exciting moment in the TOKA awards programme – it is a joy to have so many inspiring foodie entrepreneurs in the room and the anticipation builds instantly; what fantastic products will come through this year?

“The awards offer a unique opportunity to showcase the excellent food and drink scene in our county and can help elevate local businesses onto the national stage.”

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Once entries close, a rigorous judging process will follow, led by foodie celebrity Nigel Barden and his panel of expert industry judges, such as John Farrand, MD at The Guild of Fine Food and English wine expert Clive Barlow MW.

Finalists in the awards competition are announced in May and the winners crowned during a celebration on June 13 at the University of Kent.

Last year, a TOKA Food & Drink Festival was held on the day of the awards, to allow the finalists to sample and sell their products to the general public and showcase in front of invited buyers. The festival proved a success and will return this year in the Collyer Ferguson Hall at the University. The awards ceremony itself will take place in the evening at the Gulbenkian Arts Centre with a Kentish buffet and networking opportunities.

Last year’s event was attended by nine Thanet finalists with winners including Chloe’s Fudgey Fancies, Marc-Pierre’s Kitchen and The Chocolate Pig.

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The entry process is simple, food and drink businesses can nominate themselves. Floortje said: “With the public vote replaced by a self-nomination process, all entries are assessed by expert judges and individual constructive feedback is given where possible – which helps businesses further develop their product.

“We know that our bronze, silver and gold awards make a big difference to brand awareness, sales and footfall, which is just what our food and drink sector needs. We are so proud of the quality that comes out of Kent and Medway and we want to shout about it as loud as we can.”

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Also in attendance at the launch were headline sponsor Southeastern, event sponsor University of Kent, judging day sponsor Jestic Food Service and category sponsors Brachers, Crowe, Digitom, GrowUp Farms, kff, NFU Mutual Ashford, Tenterden & Whitfield, Oxbury, Port of Dover, Shepherd Neame, Social Enterprise Kent, Southern Co-op and University of Greenwich.

Entries are £20 + Vat for Produced in Kent members and £45 + Vat for non-members.

Visit Taste of Kent Awards to enter.