Within the food and beverage industry, the Great Taste Awards are highly-respected and often considered the gold standard of speciality food and drink accreditation.
Securing such a prize can catapult your product into the limelight, so we asked Kim Havelaar, Founder of Roqberry to share her know-how and advice on how to win a Great Taste Award.
Every year, 500 honed palettes judge the tastiest new foods and drinks, singling out those worthy of particular attention.
Receiving a Great Taste Award is a badge of honour and a great competitive advantage for your brand, helping new companies to grow quickly.
Seal of approval
Many retailers and suppliers want to stock only the best and tastiest products, but buying into a completely new product is a big risk. The Awards act like a recognised seal of approval, minimising this risk while positioning the retailer as a purveyor of only the finest products.
My company, Roqberry, for example, has only been in business a couple of years, yet due to our numerous Great Taste Awards, we have been able to make a big impact in a fairly short time.
I am convinced that without our Great Taste Awards, The Independent wouldn’t have discovered and listed us in their “Top Plastic-Free Teabags” article, and getting our product into retail would have been much more challenging.
Unfortunately, I have no single, special ‘trick’ that guarantees a Great Taste Award. I really wish I did. However, having won 20 Great Taste Gold Stars in just 18 months, I do have some idea about what might impress the judges. Here are my top tips…
1. No flavour is off-limits
Some food and beverage manufacturers are caught between the desire to do something a bit different and the desire for mass appeal. On the one hand, they don’t want to blend into an oversaturated market but, on the other, they don’t want to create something too weird for people to try.
What I have learnt, however, is that no flavour is off-limits in the Great Taste Awards. In fact, weird and wonderful flavour combinations might just catch the judges attention. What is important, is making the flavour rich and delicious.
For example, our Sushi & Spice flavour is, admittedly, a bit odd. But it was created specifically to accompany sushi and, in that context, the flavours really shine. It’s also part of our company ethos to ‘blend the rules’ around tea drinking, so more ‘out there’ flavours are a key part of our brand.
My first piece of advice is, therefore, not to be afraid of flavour. Big, bold flavours offer the judges something new. If that new flavour combination is also delicious and well-balanced, you will be introducing them to something entirely new. A rarity in the food and drinks industry.
Don’t feel obliged to make unusual flavours, however. Stick to your brand. We make unusual tea blends, but we also create award-winning classic blends too, such as our English Breakfast and Peppermint teas. If customers love your classic blends they will grow to trust you and be tempted to try your more unusual flavours too.
2. Be your first customer
While there is no sure-fire way to identify award-winning flavours, it’s important to trust your own palate and become your own first customer. If you love it, there’s a good chance the judges will too!
Most people go into the food and drink industry because they are foodies themselves. They enjoy interesting and unique flavours, having a refined enough palete to pick up on subtle differences in flavour. It can be easy to forget your love for flavour when you’re in the thick of developing your business and new products, but that refined palate isn’t all that common. It’s your super-power!
To use this power to it’s full advantage, you need to give yourself space and time to let your creativity run wild. Let life inspire you, mess around with flavour combinations, and work the recipe until it’s perfect. Too many people find a recipe that is ‘nice enough’ and stop. But, to be up for a Great Taste Award, your flavours need to sing.
Once you’ve developed the perfect blend of flavours, take a break. It’s easy to get so into your own creation that you can’t see the wood for the trees. Come back to it after a few hours or even the next day and you’ll encounter your creation with a fresh new perspective. If it still tastes perfect, you’re on to a winner.
3. Kill your darlings
To quote William Faulkner, you must kill your darlings. It’s certainly the hardest part of the creative process for me. I can spend a long time developing a new flavour, think it’s the bee’s knees, only for it to receive a lukewarm reaction from colleagues and customers.
Customers are your ultimate taste-makers. It is they who will decide whether to buy your product or not. So, if they don’t think it’s amazing, it should be cut.
“But what if another customer will like it?” I hear you cry. It’s an argument I’ve had with myself many times. But I believe that it is far better to have a smaller range of outstanding products than a wide range of mostly mediocre products. Not only will you raise the standard of your product range over time, but you’ll become known as a brand that only delivers outstanding flavours. Customers (and judges) will remember that!
4. Don’t try to please everyone
Despite what I just said, never try to please everyone with your products. It’s not possible and it will compromise your originality. I would much rather create a tea blend that some people loved while other hated than create a tea that everyone thinks is okay.
‘Okay’ doesn’t win Great Taste Awards – there is no category for the most ‘okay’ product. It’s the Great Taste Awards, after all!
Of course, from a commercial point of view, broad appeal makes for good sales figures. However, I would suggest creating a wide range of diverse yet unique flavours.
Even if all flavours divide opinion, there should still be something for everyone. And more diverse flavours gives people more to explore – keeping them coming back. Great tastes and great sales.
5. Quality is queen
As a business owner, you’ll need to make all kinds of critical decisions to ensure the commercial success of your brand. One of these decisions will, eventually, be on the quality of ingredients. High quality ingredients invariably cost more and could compromise your bottom line.
Of course, you’ll need to find a balance between quality and affordability to fit with your pricing strategy. When you have a choice, however, I would always recommend opting for higher quality ingredients at the expense of something else. Especially if you are chasing a Great Taste Award.
Low quality ingredients will not allow your flavour creations to really shine. Instead, they cheapen the experience. And it’s the experience people are paying for.
Besides, cheap experiences do not win Great Taste Awards.
I expect some of these tips will sound a little obvious, but, even after accruing 20 Great Taste Gold Stars for our tea blends, I still need to remind myself of these points.
The creative process is unbridled by self-consciousness; running a commercial enterprise, however, is not. Finding the balance while keeping your head is by far the hardest part of the process.
Reminding myself that my creations need to push the boundaries of flavour, that not all my creations need broad appeal, and to trust my own palate all helps me gain perspective during the creation process.
Use these tips to guide and reassure yourself while you allow your creativity to flow with love, care and attention to detail. The result will be a range of outstanding products that will catch the eye of customers and Great Taste judges alike.
About the author
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Kim Havelaar, founder and Managing Director of Roqberry. She holds a Master in Business Administration and in International Management (RSM/ESADE) and is also qualified as a tea sommelier.
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