Judging gets underway

Judging of this year's Taste of the West Food & Drink Awards will take place in July, with prize winners announced in September. John Sheaves, chief executive of Taste of the West, said the awards championed the South West's food and drink identity, ensuring that the exceptional produce and outlets serving regional food and drink were honoured and that consumers could easily select the very best that the region had to offer.

Following the success of Local Retail Outlet Award, introduced into the 2005 awards, a new award for Online Retail has been created for 2006 to promote the growing number of retailers and producers selling quality regional food and drink direct to customers via the internet.

Jonathon Bayne, technical development controller at Musgrave Budgens Londis, the sponsor of this year's competition, said: "Local sourcing is becoming increasingly relevant to consumers, who now expect to find locally produced food in their community store. We have always supported smaller, regional and specialist producers, and have just launched a line of Taste of the West products in Budgens independent stores in Langford and Cheddar."

A panel of independent industry experts including chefs, food writers, retail buyers and representatives from organisations including CAMRA, South West Tourism, Slow Food, Country Living Magazine and the Meat & Livestock Commission taste each of the entries to find the winners of the coveted Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards in each of the classes. Gold award winners in each of the classes are then judged again to find the winners of the overall category awards. The overall category winners then go forward to compete for the Champion Product.