Entries officially opened for the Sussex Food and Drink Awards 2020 on Tuesday 24 September, with over 100 Sussex food and drink business leaders gathering at a launch event held at The Cider Tap in Bolney, West Sussex.

BBC Sussex radio presenter Danny Pike hosted the event, introducing all the categories now open for food and drink businesses across the county to enter at www.sussexfoodawards.biz

Set in the beautiful orchards of Old Mill Apple Farm, The Cider Tap hosted dozens of restaurateurs, butchers, farmers’ market organisers, food producers, shop keepers, brewers and vintners from the far reaches of East Sussex, West Sussex and Brighton & Hove.

The Sussex Food & Drink Awards started 14 years ago and annually receives over 300 business entries and last year attracted over 18,000 public votes, demonstrating the strength of local support for eating and buying local. The scheme is run by Natural Partnerships Community Interest Company (CIC), co-directed by Hilary Knight of the Sussex Food & Drink Network, a specialist consultant for local food businesses; and Paula Seager, Managing Director of Natural PR Ltd, a leading Sussex PR and community relations firm.

Said Hilary Knight, “We believe that buying local food and drink is the environmentally responsible choice for everyone, reducing food miles, waste and packaging, as well as helping to sustain the local economy. Through these unique awards and other projects including www.southdownsfood.org, it is our aim to help residents and visitors to the region find out about our fantastic artisan produce, as well as where to buy and enjoy it in Sussex.”

Crucial to the awards’ continued success is the sponsors, without whom the awards could simply not exist. Loyal supporters include Blakes Foods, Harvey’s Brewery, Horsham District Foodies, RP Meats Wholesale Ltd, Southern Co-op, SRC-Time, Natural PR and Sussex Food & Drink Network. New on board for 2020 is Lloyds Bank Cardnet who will be sponsoring the Sussex Eating Experience of the Year category. Working alongside Natural Partnerships CIC, the panel of expert judges is chaired by prominent Sussex farmer and Nuffield Scholar, William Goodwin.

Said Paula Seager, “We are absolutely thrilled to announce our sponsors for the Sussex Food and Drink Awards 2020 and we are looking forward to another bumper crop of entries, public votes and support.

“It’s a privilege to run these prestigious awards and as we enter our 14th year, it’s just incredible to see the Sussex food and drink revolution thrive and our county now proudly boasts some of the most-loved British brands in the UK. Our continued aim is to throw the spotlight on the very best in Sussex and encourage more and more people to discover and explore local markets, food shops and places to eat where they can sample excellent local produce.”

Entries are open until the 24 October for Sussex Food Producer of the Year, sponsored by Southern Co-op, Sussex Farmers’ Market of the Year sponsored by Harvey’s Brewery, Sussex Butcher of the Year sponsored by RP Meats Wholesale Ltd, Sussex Eating Experience of the Year sponsored by Lloyds Bank Cardnet, Sussex Food Shop of the Year sponsored by Sussex Food & Drink Network and Sussex Drink Producer of the Year sponsored by Natural PR. The top ten in each of these categories will then be announced and opened for public voting in November.

Entries for Sussex Newcomer of the Year, sponsored by SRC-Time; Sussex Young Chef of the Year, sponsored by Blakes Foods and Young Sussex Farmer of the Year, sponsored by Natural Partnerships CIC in association with Farmers Weekly close slightly later on 3 January 2020.

The popular finals day for Sussex Street Food of the Year will be held in Horsham Carfax on Sunday 27 October from 10am until 4pm. Sponsors of this category, Horsham District Foodies supported by Food Rocks, will be organising the competition and exciting market day with live music, where the public can vote for their favourite to win.

As well as earning the huge respect and recognition that these awards now carry, the three Grand Finalists in each category will be invited to attend a BAFTA-style ceremony on 29 April 2020 at the Amex Stadium, where the winners will be revealed and guests will enjoy a seven-course Sussex produce banquet, hosted by awards patron Sally Gunnell OBE and Danny Pike from BBC Sussex.

Entries are open now at www.sussexfoodawards.biz