Organisers of the Food and Drink iNet Innovation Awards 2011 have unveiled the names of the shortlisted East Midlands companies and universities that are in the running to receive a top accolade.

The winners will be revealed at an awards ceremony and dinner at Nottingham Conference Centre, Burton Street, Nottingham, on November 17th where food critic Jay Rayner will be the guest speaker.

More than 100 guests are expected at the event, which has now become a regular date on the calendar for the food and drink sector across Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland.

“This is the fourth year we have held the Food and Drink iNet Innovation Awards and once again we had an exciting batch of entries, which demonstrates that innovation in the sector is thriving in the East Midlands,” said Food and Drink iNet director Richard Worrall.

“I am very pleased to see such an interesting range of projects in the shortlist, as it illustrates the different forms that innovation can take.”

This year’s Innovation Awards, which are designed to recognise and reward the most exciting developments in the region’s food and drink sector, feature three different categories – Most Innovative Food and Drink Business, Most Innovative Business Supplying into the Food and Drink Sector and Most Innovative Research Project.

The overall Food and Drink iNet Innovation Champion will be chosen from the winners of the three categories.

The shortlisted nominations are:

Most Innovative Food and Drink Business

• Gourmet Spice Company, Weldon, Northamptonshire
Using an experimental approach, the company has developed a range of unique spice blends, infused oils and vinegars, and flavoured salts and sugars, using interesting and exciting ingredients such as rose petals, pomegranate and pure cacao. This has helped to grow the business, which is now seeing early interest from some of the large multiple retailers.

• Butt Foods Ltd, Lenton Industrial Estate, Nottingham
The speciality bakery producer has achieved 40% sales growth and increased profitability within six months after initiating a range of innovative ideas to improve sales and develop new products. This
has included employing a growth coach, a bakery coach, staging innovation days with customers, holding in-depth interviews with customers about what they want and their challenges, and launching a service to customers to help them solve their bakery problems. As a result, Butt Foods has just launched two new flat breads into a UK multiple retailer, a fruit bread with two major food distributors, two new roll products with a national pub chain and a hot eating roll into a nationwide school supplier.

• The Country Victualler, Winkburn near Newark, Nottinghamshire
As the company, which produces fine hams, pates, terrines, smoked poultry and Christmas puddings, approached its 40th anniversary, it underwent a re-brand that reflected its impressive heritage but brought the business up to date. It used a small budget and although only recent, the re-brand is already bringing results with several new accounts, and existing customers increasing the range of products and packaging sizes that they stock. It marked the first of a number of innovations that the company is introducing, including exploring the use of social media and new product development to help the business develop in the 21st century.

Most Innovative Business Supplying into the Food and Drink Sector

• Libaeration Ltd, Butterwick, Boston, Lincolnshire
Specialising in edible foams for the food and drink industry, Libaeration has developed the world’s first alcoholic foam, which can be added to cocktails, drinks, coffees and desserts. To date this innovative product concept has been licensed to one global brand, the Dutch distiller Lucas Bols. It has been launched in Europe with plans to launch in the USA and around the world as soon as possible. It is expected to have a wide impact on the bar, catering and hospitality trades as well as drink manufacturers and packaging manufacturers. It is also making molecular mixology available to the general public.

• MCE Engineering Ltd, Empire Business Park, Derby
The specialist sheetmetal work and engineering company developed The Little Cheesery, which it believes is the smallest self-sufficient fully hygienic cheese-making facility in the world. Housing its own integrated washroom and the equipment needed to make cheese, the mobile unit was created to help farmers and others explore the feasibility of making their own cheese, either as a diversity project or a new enterprise. In the first two months of launching, it has received positive feedback and the company hopes to sell five units in the first year and add 12.5% to its current turnover and employ two more staff.

• Sherwood Press, Bilborough, Nottingham
The company developed the fully compostable, fully biodegradable Pura® range of environmental, sustainable food packaging which features Pura® barrier coating technology – created by Sherwood Press and Sun Chemical. This is an aqueous coating that has replaced the need for plastic or PE (polyethylene) coated board and greatly increases sustainable packaging for the ‘on the go’ food market. The company has achieved around £1 million in sales of its Pura® environmental food packaging.

Most Innovative Research Project

• The University of Leicester Space Research Centre
Working with University of Leicester spin out company Perpetuity Group, researchers in the Space Research Centre have invented a unique and simple way of detecting counterfeit whisky through the bottle based on space technology. The Scotch whisky industry estimates that the six leading producers lose more than £500m pa through counterfeit crime. The researchers then worked with de Montfort University’s design department to develop a handheld device for testing the authenticity of the contents of bottled drinks. A market launch is expected within months. The technology could be used in the future to detect other counterfeit liquids

• Nottingham Trent University School of Science and Technology
In association with the University of Lincoln Holbeach Campus, researchers in the Nanoscience Laboratory have developed an easy-to-use, bacteria-killing spray that coats kitchen surfaces and food processing equipment. It uses cutting edge nano and biomimetic technology, and is expected to have significant impact on the increase of food shelf life due to reduced spoilage rates, reduction of product wastage, improvement of the efficiency in food production and supply chain processes, a reduction of consumer complaints and an improvement of public health. The technology has the potential to transfer into health care, fuel transport and energy applications

• Nottingham Trent University School of Science and Technology
Researchers have developed a method of detecting offal that’s been added fraudulently to raw and cooked processed meat and products. The team has also developed monoclonal antibodies to detect undeclared blood proteins in meat products. The researchers are already working with major food retailers, manufacturers, enforcement agencies and suppliers – and food testing companies are directing customers to them. Since meat products hold a substantial share of the global food market and since a small in-house survey has revealed that offals and blood are being added to meat products without being declared, the researchers predict their business will expand in the future. Two patents have been filed for the techniques.

Part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Food and Drink iNet co-ordinates innovation support for businesses, universities and individuals working in the food and drink sector in the East Midlands. It has developed an effective network to encourage the collaboration of academic expertise and knowledge, and local food and drink business innovation needs.

It aims to build on the tradition of innovation in the food and drink industry in the region by helping to create opportunities to develop knowledge and skills, and to help research, develop and implement new products, markets, services and processes.

The Food and Drink iNet is managed by a consortium, led by The Food and Drink Forum and including Quotec Ltd (formerly Food Processing Faraday), Nottingham Trent University, the University of Lincoln, and the University of Nottingham. It is based at Southglade Food Park, Nottingham, with advisors covering the East Midlands region.

Issued by Nottingham PR company Perfect 10 PR