The Aurora International Taste Challenge was held in South Africa this year to celebrate and honour universal food quality. This challenge was established to recognise and award food product excellence, while helping consumers purchase award-winning, professionally rated products with confidence. We are proud to be partnering with Polyoak Packaging to make the 2019 event a big success.
Awarded producers can utilise award artwork on their products, as well as in print and electronic media. Many consumers are brand loyal, but will pick another product if it is given a higher rating, and an award is still one of the best ways to assure that a product will be noticed, and make it stand out among its competitors.
Celia Gilloway was the convener of the judges, and invited some of the best sommeliers and food industry professionals to sit on the panel of adjudicators. With over 2 000 glasses on hand the work could begin. It is no small task to find the best of the best, as each product was assessed on many qualities, including appearance, smell, taste, mouthfeel and aftertaste.
One of the most exciting categories judged was water. The bottled water industry is a very fast growing high value industry, and it was interesting to see how top sommeliers differentiate between different types and qualities of waters. Even Municipal water was adjudicated to see whether excellent service delivery by a municipality can result in superb water to residents.
Entries included Energy drinks and Sports drinks, Soft drinks, Non-Alcoholic drinks, CBD drinks, Coffee and Tea in ready-to-drink format, Fruit juice, Kombucha, Beer, Cider, Mead and various other alcoholic drinks.
The categories that received the most entries were Water, Beer, Cider and Kombucha.
Some of the municipal waters tasted had some obvious high chlorine values and were scored down, but some rose to the occasion. According to the tasters, the municipal waters had a high mineral content and low pH overall. There was an astounding variance in spectrum and quality.
In the bottled water category, the mineral waters clearly were of a higher standard compared to other waters. Something as “generic” as water was an eye-opener, showing a spectrum of quality from mostly superior to very disappointing.
The soft drinks showed great variety, and “adult” soft drinks seem to be making some headway. Soft drinks with natural flavours and low sugars did well. In the soft drink class, modern Ginger beers also did well. This was a great class to judge, because it showed such variety.
There was a huge spectrum of taste among the energy drinks, even though one would not think that taste was a big consideration for energy drinks lovers. Although by default the sugar content was quite high, there were interesting flavours, and the drinks were very refreshing. The sports drinks were very similar in style and variety, although there were some very well-balanced and thirst-quenching examples among them.
The kombucha class showed an extensive variety, with flavours for every preference. This trending category seems to be so diverse, it almost lacks an obvious definition as far as style and flavour go. It was a true wonderworld of flavours.
In the tea category the unsweetened teas seemed to shine, showing great restraint and balance. The flavour characteristics were very complex and some flavour profiles, such as peach combinations, seemed to do well. It showed that this is a category with great promise which will appeal to adults as well.
The non-alcoholic drink alternatives were an eye-opener, showing that producers are respecting their ingredients and are making great strides to lure new consumers. The gin and tonic alternatives, especially, showed great promise.
The beer category had some excellent beers. In this age of craft brewing nobody can afford to rest on their laurels, and beer brewers seem to be pushing the boundaries, ever evolving and improving their beers. Ciders varied a lot, showing diversity in style and quality.
The spirit-based drinks were exciting and of high quality throughout. Most showed great promise, but there is still room for improvement.
The results of this year’s challenge showed that there is variety and quality variance hiding in plain sight, and that a professional evaluation of products, some would classify as generic, can open up a whole new world to people.
There are definitely high quality products nobody would expect, in categories such as water and orange juice. It is no longer necessary to just grab the cheapest or nearest container in a grocery store. The world is changing and producers who excel should be lauded, no matter how big or small they are.
We want to thank the companies who entered, Polyoak packaging and the staff who made this event possible.
The dates for The Aurora International Taste Challenge 2020 will be announced in January 2020.