The Aurora International Taste

Challenge 2020 - Superior products receive high accolades from expert judges

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 the following brands to make the 2020 event a big success.

Awarded producers can utilise award artwork on their products, as well as in printed 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 food industry professionals to sit on the panel of adjudicators. With over 2500 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.

Here are some of the awards received:

Because of the COVID-19 regulations only non-alcoholic products were evaluated during this first part of this year’s evaluation.

Water and Ready to drink products

In the water category it was a level playing field, with the still water generally faring better.

In the soft drink category, there seems to be a move towards natural flavouring, less sweet drinks seemingly in a move away from the usual brands. There seems to be a move to luring the more health conscious consumer.

The mixers showed some nice natural flavours, while energy drinks showed a move towards more innovative flavouring. The juice category surprised with apple and orange juice favourites. The kombucha class was very diverse as far as flavours and style go, with generally nice fizz.

Tasters for the water and ready to drink categories included James Copeland, Jean Vincent Ridon and Georgio Meletiou.

Drinks and Water video:

Olives and Olive Oil

This was the first-year olive oil and olives were adjudicated at The Aurora International Tastes Challenge and 69 samples were received from South Africa, Spain, Bolivia, United States and Angola. A total of 29 products were awarded.

Generally olive oil showed great quality across the board, with diversity of flavours and styles. Most examples showed freshness and purity. The South African examples compared well with those from the rest of the world and proved again that the world is truly one big village now.

Flavoured oils showed good diversity, although some oils had artificial flavours, which when used judiciously worked very well. The best examples shone and the judges were very happy with the entries.


Olive and Olive Oil Tasting judges.

The Olives were diverse in style, but most showed good quality and pure flavours.

Olive oil and Olive video:


This was the inaugural year for the judging of coffee at The Aurora International Taste Challenge. The essence of this event is to provide guidance to consumers from a consumer’s point of view, and to evaluate products in an environment, and circumstances similar to what would have been experienced by someone at home, or in a coffee shop. The professional baristas from Guild of Coffee – Barista Academy (https://guildofcoffee.com/) took great care preparing every coffee in a reproducible way, churning out cups with precision for the nearly 50 samples. Both pre-ground coffee and coffee prepared from whole beans were tasted in different categories as black coffee, as well as with dairy milk and milk alternatives.

The coffees ranged wildly in style and origin and there seemed to be a shift away from very dark roasting. There were some excellent fruit driven coffees that emerged, and this could just be a new trend. Some of the dark roasted coffee showed excessive bitterness, which did not serve them well.

Single origin coffees seemed to dominate quality wise, but there were some clever blends making use of coffee beans from newly emerging Rock star regions.

In the category of coffee with milk, some entries struggled to hold their own with the milk. The quality of some coffees with the right acidity and texture, shone through.

Coffee Tasting Judges

Coffee video:

Sausage, dried and cured meats

This was the first-year sausages, dried and cured meat from all over the world was tasted, and the quality and diversity were evident. The uncooked meats were prepared by representatives of the Institute of Culinary Arts (www.icachef.co.za).

ICA treated the meat products with respect and adjusted cooking times and methods to do justice to every product.

The salami class was diverse in range and included some excellent examples. Besides the exceptionally good examples there were some very average products as well that did not make the grade.

The bacons entered also ranged in quality and style, with some excellent quality well balanced and smoked examples, contrasting with some very salty entries. It was noted that some producers really need to pay attention to flavour balance and the quality of their smoking.

Although South Africa is the home of droë wors and biltong this category disappointed. Although there were a few highlights, there seems to be a drive generally to provide cheap products without paying attention to quality.

Meat tasting judges


In the uncooked sausage category, the local “boerewors” shined. There were some excellent examples with very traditional taste, but there was a lot of shrinkage observed in some products, as well as a big tendency towards the overuse of MSG.

Generally, the judges observed a general improvement in the quality and availability of international meat products and agreed that there is still a huge gap in the market for quality products, from both big and artisanal producers.

Meat products video:

Final conclusions

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 a whole new world to the consumer.

We want to thank the companies who entered, our partners and the staff who made this event possible and in particular:

  • DHL
  • Crystal Direct
  • Hario
  • Crown Food Group
  • Canals
  • Institute of Culinary Art
  • Guild of Coffee – Barista Academy
  • Poly Oak Packaging
  • Equipment Café
  • Cadac
  • San Pellegrino / Aqua Panna Water
  • Butcher SA
  • Mahlkönig
  • RX South Africa – Olive oil closures
  • Theron du Plessis Chartered Accountants