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Launched amid the Covid-19 pandemic to bolster the industry after key cheese and dairy awards were cancelled or postponed, the Virtual Cheese Awards has been a platform for producers to promote the very best of British cheese and connect with fellow cheesemakers during an extremely challenging time for artisan makers.
The 2021 Virtual Cheese Awards will take place live online on Friday 7th May 2021, hosted by local food and drink champion and broadcaster, Nigel Barden. The awards will increase from 300 to 400 individual entries across nine categories, with a total of 42 individual classes. Entries open on 5th February.
“We’re proud to be returning with a bigger, better and even cheesier awards this year, which will continue to support and celebrate our fantastic British cheese industry,” says Sarah de Wit, founder of the Virtual Cheese Awards and cheese & dairy consultant. “We have a uniquely transparent and open judging process which was a great hit with producers last year, so entrants can see their cheese being judged live online.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is still negatively affecting so many producers, so we hope the Virtual Cheese Awards will act as a beacon to showcase innovation and excellence,” Sarah adds.
Categories for 2021 will include Best Cheddar Cheese, Best Territorial, Best Blue and Best Speciality cheese, as well as a new Dairy Free category for vegan products.
This year will also see the unveiling of a new category, Recognising Excellence, which will include six classes, such as Most Innovative Cheese Packaging, Sustainability in Cheese production and Cheese Hero, to be awarded to one who has gone over and above to support the cheese industry.
An overall Best of British Cheese will be chosen from the winners of the eight main categories and will receive a prize worth £4,000 to boost their business. This will include editorial and advertising in Speciality Food, which will land in the hands of more than 8,000 of the most important buyers in the UK and Ireland, along with a consumer feature in Great British Food.
“Speciality Food is proud to once again be supporting the Virtual Cheese Awards as media partner,” said Holly Shackleton, editor of Speciality Food. “These awards are genuinely pioneering in their use of technology and transparent judging processes, and we are delighted to continue to support and uplift the British cheese industry in this exciting way.”
The three finalists will also win a bespoke PR and social media consultation from food and drink comms specialists, North PR. All profits from the awards will go back into supporting British farmers and dairy producers through a donation to the Specialist Cheesemakers Association.
Renegade Monk scooped the Best British Cheese 2020 award. Made by Feltham’s Farm, the soft blue cow’s milk cheese is made from organic pasteurised cow’s milk and rind-washed in ale. “Winning Best British Cheese at the first ever Virtual Cheese Awards was so thrilling, we never thought we’d win,” says founder Marcus Fergusson. “It gave us renewed momentum and drive after we were hit hard through the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We would recommend all producers to enter as it gave our business a real boost. We loved the transparency of the judging process, which isn’t replicated in any other cheese awards,” Marcus continues. “It was fascinating to hear all of the cheeses analysed by such knowledgeable and unflinching judges.”
Entries open on Friday 5th February 2021 with a closing date of 24th March 2021. Early bird prices are £35 per entry for the first 150 entries, rising to £45 per entry thereafter. To find out more, visit: virtualcheeseawards.com