Media Release: Winners savour their successes at the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards

TEN organisations and individuals from Argyll to Orkney are celebrating following the announcement of the winners of the prestigious Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards for 2011 in Inverness last tonight (Friday 21 October).

The Awards, organised by the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Forum, and supported by Highlands & Islands Enterprise, recognise the best use of local food and drink, healthier food and drink, good environmental practice, innovation, businesses working in collaboration with each other, as well as new products and new businesses.

The Orkney Fishermen’s Society received the coveted Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Excellence Award, an award presented by the judges recognising excellence in any one category.

Ian McWilliams, of Keltic Seafare, and Lucy Midgley-Smith, of the Crannag Bistro, were joint winners of the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards Young Ambassador of the Year for 2011.

Considering both to have excelled in their contribution to the industry to date, the judges agreed a joint award would reward both for their superb efforts.

The popular Highlands & Islands Restaurant of the Year Award was awarded to The Summer Isles Hotel in Achiltibuie, Ross-shire. A full list of winners for all Award categories is given below.

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Stewart Stevenson, addressed guests at the Awards, which were hosted by BBC Scotland presenter, Catriona Shearer.

Environment Minister, Stewart Stevenson, said: “The Highland and Islands Food and Drink Awards are a key date in the food and drink industry calendar, and are a valuable celebration of the hard work and dedication which goes into producing the high quality products available throughout the region.

“I would like to congratulate all those companies nominated and I am delighted to be presenting the Excellence award to the Orkney Fishermen’s Society in recognition of their particular achievements in the crab processing field.”

Mr Stevenson continued: “The food and drink sector in the Highland and Islands area makes a significant contribution to the industry and Scottish economy as a whole, contributing around £1 billion pounds per year.

“The importance of this sector to the government is acknowledged through our national food and drink policy, in our new economic strategy and the spending review, with the budget for food and drink being doubled at a time of hard choices.

“Scotland has a rich and plentiful food and drink larder and these awards help to boost its reputation as a Land of Food and Drink.”

The prestigious Awards celebrating excellence and achievement in the food and drink industry of the Highlands and Islands were presented at a glittering ceremony attended by over 200 people. The Dinner menu featured Highland producers, giving guests first-hand experience of the excellent fare from the area.

Chris Taylor, head of Tourism, Food and Drink at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: “It is great to see the mix of large and small companies involved in the Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards.

“All of the entrants and nominees have a shared ambition to be the best at what they do, and our sincere congratulations go to all of them. Since HIE started sponsoring the awards in 2005, many, many awards have been given out – each recognising the superb quality of produce and the calibre of people who produce it right across our region.

“These companies are at the forefront of an industry which consistently is among the best in the world in terms of quality and innovation.”

Quintin Stevens, co-chair of the Highlands & Islands food & Drink Forum, said: “The Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Forum is delighted to see the record number of entries for the Awards this year, clear evidence of the high standards of the food and drink industry in the Highlands and Islands.

“It’s great to see our Highlands and Islands producers diversifying, developing new products and in places re-inventing to fit the markets available especially in times of global downturn and political mayhem.

“On behalf of the Forum, I would like to thank all the individuals and businesses shortlisted for this year’s event. Congratulations to them for achieving a place on the shortlist against strong competition, and special congratulations are due to all of the winners.”

Quintin continued: “I’d also like to thank all of the sponsors and supporters who make the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards possible.”

More information on the Awards is available at .

Please note: photographs of each of the winners and speakers are available. For further information or pictures before 24 October, contact Alison Bell on 01463 715771 or

For information or pictures on or after 24 October, please contact Malcolm Sutherland / Rachel Philips on 0845 838 2748; .

The winners of the 2011 Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards are as follows: 

Excellence Award Location
This special award is reserved by the judging panel to recognise and reward excellence in any category or for one particular entry. It is not open for general entry: candidates are selected by the judging panel from entries received across all categories.
Orkney Fishermen’s Society Stromness, Orkney
Orkney Fishermen’s Society is a fishermen’s co-operative (est 1953) operating a crab processing factory and exporting live lobsters, brown and velvet crabs. The business processes some 1,500 tonnes of brown crab each year selling products to retail and wholesale customers in the UK, Europe and the Far-East. Some 40 tons per annum of live lobsters are also handled, mostly air-freighted direct to markets in Europe and Scandinavia. Around 250 tons of velvet crabs are shipped live by a weekly truck to Spain each year.
Best Use of Local Food and Drink, sponsored by Swansons Fruit Company and Speyside Specialities
The Puffer Bar & Restaurant Easdale Island, nr Oban, Argyll
A warm welcome, fantastic home cooking & baking, an array of single malts & boutique Scottish Gins, tasty selection of local ales and a beautiful location are here for you to discover at The Puffer Bar & Restaurant on Easdale Island. We work closely with local fishermen and other Argyll and Scottish food and drink producers to provide a unique dining experience and have recently teamed up with a local brewery incorporating their ales into our exclusive range of handmade preserves.
Distance No Object Award, sponsored by ICR Solutions
Reids of Caithness Thurso, Caithness
In the heart of beautiful Caithness, in the Scottish Highlands, nestles the small town of Thurso, where the Reid family has been producing the finest quality biscuits for over 40 years. Reids pride themselves on using time honoured baking methods, whilst developing new ideas. Fine ingredients combined with traditional recipes create award winning biscuits, shortbreads and cakes. Reids continue to build their award winning reputation by achieving Great Taste Gold Star Awards for six of their products in 2011.
Environment Award, sponsored by Tio Ltd
The Ethical Shellfish Company Aros, Isle of Mull, Argyll
Based on the Isle of Mull, The Ethical Shellfish Company supplies sustainably caught shellfish to top restaurants throughout the UK. Our core product is the king scallop, dive caught from our own small boat and other local divers. We catch to order, and only take the number and size of scallops that we need, with no damage to other species or the marine environment. We also sell other ethically caught shellfish including lobster, langoustine and crab, all sourced from small local boats. Our aim is to guarantee good provenance, taking our shellfish direct from the sea to restaurants with no middle-man in between.
Healthier Food and Drink Award, sponsored by Robert Wiseman Dairies
Saladworx Mill Farm, Dornoch, Sutherland
As well as growing, harvesting and distributing our unique multi award-winning salad into foodservice and retail, we have developed a range of Scottish dressings to be the perfect partner for our salad, ‘DRESS ME UP!’ ™. Saladworx dressings follow the same ethics as our salad: additive-free, hand-made on the farm, using only the finest Scottish ingredients and our own herbs and flowers. Six tasty new flavours to choose from!
Innovation Award, sponsored by Scotland Food and Drink
Café Artysans Inverness
Café Artysans was opened in December 2010 as a customer-focused café bistro, delivering high-quality, freshly prepared food, freshly roasted coffee and real value to customers. Additionally, the café offers employment & training to 14 young people as a progression through the in-house SQA accredited training service. This service offers nationally recognised qualifications and apprenticeships to young people while creating opportunities to build relationships with customers – equipping them to progress directly into jobs, in food and drink and other sectors.
New Business Award, sponsored by JBT Distribution and J&D Cowper
Argyll Smokery Sandbank, Dunoon, Argyll
Allan McDougall and Karen Baxter run the thriving Argyll Smokery based in Dunoon on the Cowal Peninsula. Our smokery started in 2010… literally from scratch! We took over a very old and disused milk premises, stripped it back to the bare walls, redesigned the internal walls and had a complete refit. Our traditional kilns were then quickly ordered up and commissioned…. The engine room was ready to go! We specialise in creating small handcrafted batches of artisan smoked foods, recently winning three two-Star Gold Great Taste Awards. We supply our products throughout the UK to discerning delis, restaurants and wholesalers. Our philosophy is very simple ‘never fresher, never better… fine tasting foods made without compromise’
New Product Award, sponsored by Polaris Learning Ltd
Reids of Caithness – Range of Shortbreads and Oat Biscuits Thurso, Caithness
Winner of Best Scottish Speciality 2010 and three gold stars, Caithness Butter Shortbread is a glorious buttery indulgence that melts in the mouth. 2009 Gold Star winner, Treacle & Toffee biscuits, made from creamy toffee and rich treacle are deliciously crisp. Using finely milled oats and pure blossom honey our Oat & Honey Biscuits are a sweet treat, ideal for giving as a gift. For stylish hors d’oeuvres Caithness Groaties are the answer – the perfect base for any topping. Stem Ginger Oaties are a scrumptious after dinner treat; try them with your coffee. Banoffee Oaties are so good you will not want to share them with anyone.
Partnerships for Success Award, sponsored by Highlands and Islands Enterprise
Orkney Fishermen’s Society Stromness, Orkney
Orkney Fishermen’s Society is a fishermen’s co-operative (est 1953) operating a crab processing factory and exporting live lobsters, brown and velvet crabs. The business processes some 1,500 tonnes of brown crab each year selling products to retail and wholesale customers in the UK, Europe and the Far-East. Some 40 tons per annum of live lobsters are also handled, mostly air-freighted direct to markets in Europe and Scandinavia. Around 250 tons of velvet crabs are shipped live by a weekly truck to Spain each year.
Highlands & Islands Restaurant of the Year Award, sponsored by Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards Committee 
Summer Isles Hotel Achiltibuie, Ross-shire
Chef Chris Firth-Bernard has held a Michelin star for his five-course menus (everything home produced or locally-caught or foraged) at this hotel/restaurant in a beautiful, remote location overlooking the Summer Isles. It is managed by Jody Marshall for the owners, Terry and Irina Mackay. The original crofters’ bar, which dates back to the mid-19th century, is open all day for coffee and snacks, lunch and less formal evening meals. The Lounge bar (with background music) and garden are enjoyed by all.
Young Ambassador, sponsored by The STOREHOUSE & The DORES INN

Ian McWilliams, Keltic Seafare, Dingwall, Ross-shire and Lucy Midgley-Smith, Crannag Bistro, Bonar Bridge, Sutherland


Ian McWilliams commenced his employment with Keltic Seafare whilst still at school working in the evenings and weekends and joined the business full-time in 2007. After working with a positive attitude throughout the wettest, coldest and most mundane tasks and completing a variety of courses with great gusto, Ian was promoted to Supervisor in 2009. He has taken this responsibility in his stride and has great understanding of the business as well as an exceptional work ethic and attention to detail.

Lucy Midgley-Smith has worked in the family business since the age of 13 in production, marketing and hospitality. Whether selling chilli sauces at exhibitions or ensuring a wonderful dining experience at the Crannag Bistro, her enthusiasm for good food is infectious. She holds a Personal Licence, SVQ in Professional Cookery and is currently studying Dietetics, aiming for a foodie future in hospitality or health education. Lucy currently wants to promote Highland produce to a nationwide audience on ‘Come Dine With Me’!

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Contact: Alison Bell
Phone: 07765 242686