My day as a judge for the 2015 Quality Food Awards

The Quality Food Awards, to be announced on Thursday 5th November, are the most prestigious awards for food and drink products on sale in UK grocery outlets. Every year, dozens of food manufacturers strive for pre-eminence across some of the 83 – yes, 83 – food categories. Thanks to the growing reputation of our Sensory research service, for the second year running Marketing Sciences Unlimited was invited to provide a tasting judge, so along I went…


My day started very early on the morning of the 24th August as I jumped on the train and set off to the University of West London where the QFA judging would be taking place. The judging venue was slightly less glamorous than the ceremony venue – this year the QFA will be back at the Grosvenor House Hotel – ‘a favourite haunt of royalty, celebrities and business leaders since its opening in 1929’ – and will be hosted by none other than Phil Vickery (the TV chef not the World Cup winning prop forward).

QF Awards Night last year


Anyway, I would be judging products from the Food to Go category and was looking forward to trying a range of different foods entered by manufacturers who believe they are tasty and innovative enough to beat the competition and be voted the best.

On arrival we had a little time before the judging began to get to know the fellow judges. It was interesting to see the variety of people who had been invited onto the panel, which included myself – a market researcher, journalists, a packaging designer and a chef. During this time I found out that most of my fellow judges had done this sort of thing before and also that we would be trying up to 50 products today – I began to worry that I wouldn’t be able to keep up!

I needn’t have worried, however, as once we got going it was actually really fun! In total we tried 40 products from the Food to Go category which included a variety of different foods such as sandwiches, fruit, popcorn, ready meals, etc. We examined each product based on a number of different attributes including appearance, taste, packaging and innovation. While trying each product we all made individual notes and also discussed as a group what we thought about each product. As we continued through the trialling of these 40 products we also made sure to make a note of the ones we especially liked in preparation for when we would have to choose a winner.

Your 2015 QFA awards cerermony host will be Phil Vickery

Not this Phil Vickery...but this one v2

All in all we spent 5 hours of almost constant eating and discussion, followed by another hour of debate to pick our winners. Choosing a winner was difficult as there was such a variety of products – it’s hard to judge popcorn against sandwiches and fruit! However, we were eventually able to come to a decision on 7 stand out products: 1 winner, 2 highly commended, 3 commended and 1 shortlisted.

It was a fascinating day and I’ve discovered some very tasty and interesting new products which I will definitely look out for on supermarket shelves when I am next visiting the Food to Go section! There were quite a few strong contenders and these included some very exciting new & innovative ideas. It’s good to see that food products are constantly moving forwards and evolving, both as a market researcher seeing that new product development can continue to surprise and excite us – and also ‘off duty’ as a person who simply enjoys food!

Sarah Bruce is a member of the Sensory & Product Development research team at Marketing Sciences Unlimited

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Sarah Bruce
01962 842211
Article date - 23/09/2015
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