Co-op partners with F&B awards to offer game-changing listing

The Co-op is joining forces with the prestigious Quality Food and Drink Awards for the fourth consecutive year to search for the nation’s Small Producer of the Year.

2019 marks the 40th anniversary of the Quality Food and Drink Awards and the Co-op will once again be offering the winner of the coveted Small Producer Gold Q Award the chance to secure a potentially game-changing listing.

In 2018, the standard of entries into the Small Producer Awards was incredibly high and the Co-op buyers decided that Luhv Drinks (pictured) - the delicious, nutritious cold press drinks with purpose - was to be the overall Gold Q Award Winner.

The Co-op buyers and Luhv Drinks are now working together, towards gaining a listing at the Co-op but such was the standard of entrants in 2018, that the Small Producer Alcoholic Drinks category winner, Toast Ale - the craft beer brewed with surplus fresh bread that would otherwise be wasted - has also gained a listing.

Simon Dryell, Head of Local Sourcing, Co-op, said, “We are proud to partner this category, and all that it stands for.

'As demonstrated by our 2018 winners - Luhv Drinks and Toast Ale - the annual search showcases the inspiring mix of quality, passion, history and innovation that these locally loved producers display in abundance. Not to mention the love, care and detail which has gone into product development and creation.

' It’s not too late for small producers to get involved and we are really looking forward to seeing all the exciting and innovative brands that enter.”

Chris Beech, founder of Luhv Drinks said of their success, “Winning the Gold Small Producer Quality Food and Drink Awards is huge for us – it’s like a golden ticket. Entering the small producer awards was the best £125 I have ever spent. They sit on my desk every day; to be associated with winning the Q’s has such great gravitas when you speak to people – it truly is amazing.

“I’d encourage other small producers to enter these awards as the feedback you receive along with the opportunity to get your products in front of the Co-op buyers and potentially gain a listing is something not to be missed.”

The Co-op recently announced that it would be stocking Toast Ale’s Purebread Pale Ale in all 57 Co-op food stores in London. David Ryan, chief ‘breadwinner’ at Toast Ale, said: “We’re delighted with the Co-op listing that we achieved on the back of the Quality Food Awards win. We have a very strong customer base in the capital, and we are excited to bring a sustainable offering to Co-op’s craft beer range and offer drinkers more places to find us.”

Dryell continued, “Toast Ale’s efforts to connect communities through sustainably brewed craft beer that raises awareness of food waste, will resonate with Co-op customers. Indeed, there is a strong fit between our two businesses as our efforts to reduce food waste align perfectly with Toast Ale’s broader mission to tackle the issue of food waste, one beer at a time.”

The deadline for Small Producers to enter their products into the Quality Food and Drink Awards is Friday 14th June 2019. Small producers receive a reduced entry fee of £125+VAT (saving £339). In addition to entries being judged in the Quality Food and Drink Awards, the expert judging panel, working closely with the Co-op, will also select products to be put forward for the Small Producer Awards.

With each entry into the Quality Food and Drink Awards receiving constructive, meaningful feedback – regardless of how the entered product fares – new for 2019, finalists in each category will also receive a report from Vypr, the Award’s consumer research partner.

The next stage is then for shortlisted companies to attend the Co-op HQ where they will have the opportunity to have a pop-up stand in their atrium offering tastings and real-time engagement with Co-op food buyers. The final stage will be to present a Dragons’ Den-style pitch to Co-op executives.

Winners will be announced at the glitzy Quality Food and Drink Awards ceremony on 22 November at The Brewery, London.