Kent businesses are invited to enter the 2024 Taste of Kent Awards (TOKA) as the search for the tastiest food and drink in the county begins.
Yesterday, TOKA presented its 2024 award programme at a packed launch event at The Yarrow in Broadstairs.
Sponsored by EKC Group, the event was attended by the great and the good of the Kent food industry, previous winners and finalists, as well as influential industry figures from across the UK, including Kent champion and co-host of the awards, Julie Maddocks.
Also in attendance were headline sponsor Southeastern, event sponsor the 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 the University of Greenwich.
Now in its 19th year, TOKA 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 and most prestigious food and drink awards in the South East.
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 (12 January) and close on the 23 February 2024.
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.”
Once entries close on 23 February, 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 2024, and the winners crowned during a full day of celebrations on 13 June 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 them in front of invited buyers. The festival proved a resounding 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 plenty of networking opportunities.
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.”