• Jo

Winning a Great Taste Award

The results of the 2019 Great Taste Awards were announced two weeks ago. I was so nervous to find out my results that my hands were shaking as I logged in. To my utter shock I found that the two baking kits that I had created both won a star each.  It was a happy feeling, I may have cried a little.  Winning the awards had been over a year in the making, a potential lost-profit risk and a feeling of putting my credibility as a food producer on the line.  Read more about the process that I went through in order to succeed.

The Guild of Fine Food

The Great Taste Awards are hosted by The Guild of Fine Food. They host several awards of which The Great Taste is one of them. I had heard about them and seen the labels on the food items in the shops but didn't really think about it as a competition to enter myself. I started to take it more seriously as I began pitching my business to people. I realised that they weren't taking me seriously because my education came from a scientific background and not as a food producer.  I knew that if I won a competition in a food related area then there could be no question in the future about my ability.

I started out by visiting the Guild's website and finding out what the rules were for submission.  I found it confusing so thought I would email to find out more. I described my Anning's Coprolite Cupcake recipe and the idea behind SciRecipes. It didn't take long for them to get back to me. It was a great reply but they didn't think my kits would be eligible. I was gutted and tried to find another competition to enter.

"Anyone that brings a bit of theatre and Brian Cox approach to cooking gets my vote"

Nick Crosley, The Guild of Fine Food

A couple of months later I went to a workshop held at the School of Artisan Food and Drink where I got to network with other food producers in the East Midlands area. There was a man there who was talking about his experience of entering the awards and a lady mentioned that she had submitted her baking kits and won. It made me ask why her kits were eligible and mine weren't.

I got home and buried deeper into the rules of the competition. It turns out that you can submit baking kits so long as they only require one additional ingredient to be added. My cupcakes need eggs and butter so I began to realise that it wasn't the kits themselves but the particular one I had described in the e-mail that I couldn't submit.  With the entry date eight months away I had some time to think about what I could do to enter. 

Designing the recipes to submit

There are two baking kit categories; Biscuit & cookie mixes and Bread, scone & cake mixes. I scoured my notebook where I keep a record of my recipes and couldn't find anything that would work. So I started to have a think about what I could do. The inspiration for my recipes come from all sorts of places. I might visit somewhere or a news article comes out. This time it came from an upcoming trip that I had for a hen party. My friend was getting married and she wanted to go to Belfast to celebrate. Two hours up the coast from there is the Giant's Causeway. I had seen pictures growing up and featured in pretty much every geology textbook. I decided that I could fly out a couple of days early and go visit before meeting up with all the other girls. I also started to think about if I could design a recipe to include in my product range.

After a bit of research I discovered that a traditional food item of Northern Ireland was the oatcake. The idea for a recipe started to formulate around the shaping the oatcake into hexagons to represent the shape of the causeway steps. The next step was to research the recipe. I wanted to keep it simple. I also wanted to make sure that they could be eaten on their own but also with cheese so getting the salt levels just right. I made a few versions and sent them off with my sister to work. Her team happily tested each recipe and provided feedback. This helped figure out the exact amounts of each ingredient and baking time required.

Once the recipe was sorted I needed to write the sciency bit. Because I knew I was going to visit in person I decided to write a script and produce a video. It was nerve wracking at first to stand there and watch tourist walk past as I talked to my camera phone but in the end I had a lot of fun. You can watch the video here.

The second kit I submitted was a last minute thing. Two weeks before the entry date a news article came out about the age of the rings of Saturn. I'd been contemplating a recipe about doughnuts or bagels as they are ring-shaped and this news article helped with writing the sciency bit. I once again went through the testing phase, mainly in regards to the oven temperatures and timings. Our house smelt amazing for a week as I tested each batch!  I spent many a late night frantically trying to get the art work done for the recipe card and get it on sale on the website as this was a competition rule for entry.

The wait...

There is only a few weeks over January and February to enter the awards. The first week is open to guild members only and then it opens to everyone else. There is a cap on the number of entries so there is an impetus to submit as soon as possible. Having not entered before I had everything prepared just in case. I found that you could open an application and have everything filled in ready so all that was left to do was checkout and pay the fee. Although a date had been given there was no time. So I waited till midnight and at 00:01 was ready with my credit card details. But it wouldn't work. I stayed up till 1:30 am refreshing the page and waiting but it still wouldn't let me through. So I gave in and went to bed. I set my alarm at hourly intervals to keep checking but still with no luck. I was so tired that I slept through my morning alarms! By the time I woke the entries had opened and I was able to submit both the kits. Luckily there were still a few thousand spots left so my worry was all for nothing.

After that there wasn't much left to do apart from going back to the everyday work of trying to get my business up and running. I waited till I got my emails about delivery and prepared my kits duly. It was an exciting day when I sent them off with all my hope and expectation.  It was a long wait till results day.

was finally over.

I follow the Guild on social media so I was reminded when the results came out. I knew that I would receive an email so my phone was stuck to my hand the whole day. It finally dinged with the notification and I nervously logged on.  My mind was racing and hands shaking.  There it was, the results, one star for each kit!  The risk had paid off and all the doubt over my ability gone.

After sharing the news with friends and family I headed to the Guild's website to order the labels for my kits. They haven't arrived yet but I will be proudly displaying them when they do.  I even got in touch with my local paper who were happy to do an article and as a result I was invited onto my local radio show.


I'm excited for the future and I'm hopeful for the potential business opportunities that are out there. I'm even planning on a gluten free recipe to submit for next year. Hopefully this has given you an idea of what it takes to enter the awards. When you don't have much money as a start-up business and you have to decide what you spend your money on then it can be scary to make the leap.  As I continue on my journey of being an entrepreneur I'm learning that you really have to put yourself out there because no-one else will do it for you.  This story is one success in the sea of many that didn't work out.  One day I might write about them but for now I want to wish you the best of luck if you choose to enter next year's awards!

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