Entering the Great Taste Awards is quite a process. Your food product will be blind-tasted and judged by some of the most demanding food critics, restaurateurs, chefs, cooks, and producers, as well as food writers and journalists.
After this intense process customers who see the distinctive black and gold Great Taste label will know that they can expect a wonderful tasting product. One star is given for products that deliver fantastic flavour, while two stars are reserved for those that are above and beyond delicious.
In just over 18 months, Roqberry has won an incredible 20 Great Taste Awards for our speciality tea, so I’ve learned something about what will impress judges. Let me share some key points with you here:
Create big, bold flavours
When we launched Roqberry, we were foodies wanting to ‘blend the rules’ around what tea is, what it could be, and when it could be drunk. We wanted tea to complement our food, which is a bit unusual, especially in the UK.
This required bold flavours so that the tea could hold its own when paired with rich foods and not be reliant on milk which softens the flavour. For example, our Sushi & Spice and Raspberry Fondant both won two stars.
So, my advice is to not be afraid of flavour. Don’t settle for making something tasty yet boring if you could make something delicious and outstanding.
Trust your own palate
I am often asked, how I know when a new flavour is award-winning. The truth is, I don’t. We create tea blends that we like and work from there. Which brings me to my next tip: trust your own palate!
By creating something that you love, there’s an excellent chance you’ll be creating something someone else will love too! The important criterion to focus on is the flavour. A tea could look good and smell good, we may have even thought up the perfect name for it, but, if it didn’t deliver flavour, it was dismissed.
I recommend that you give yourself a set amount of time to allow your creative juices to flow. Play around with ideas, take inspiration from a number of sources, and don’t be downhearted if it doesn’t taste great on your first try. Some of the best flavours we’ve created have been the result of a number of iterations ‒ we keep working until it tastes just right…to us. Then we get feedback from our customers.
Be prepared to make tough decisions
Of course, the balance to the point above is that you also need to cut any flavours that don’t prove popular with your customers. They are your ultimate tastemakers.
Just because you created flavours with love and care doesn’t mean you should keep them in your range. We use events and tradeshows to test our new flavours on our customers. People vote with their wallet and if we sell out of a product by sampling it, we know we are on to a winner.
We will discontinue the least popular product, even if it is one of our personal favourites. This helps continuously raise the standard of our teas, ensuring every of them meets the standard for great taste.
Push to create something outstanding
One more point on flavour (after all, it’s the most important thing) ‒ you must push the boundaries if you want to create a truly outstanding product.
It’s far better for some customers to absolutely LOVE a product and for others not to care for it than to create something mediocre. And truly unique products will never satisfy everyone’s preferences. At least if you have a unique product that some customers love then you have a captive audience for that range. Other customers will prefer other unique flavours, so it’ll all work out in the end and customers will have a wide range of products to explore!
Use the best quality ingredients
When managing a food or beverage company, there are lots of strategic and commercial decisions you will need to make. One thing you should never compromise, however, is the quality of your ingredients.
Even if you have a delicious recipe, using cheap ingredients will compromise the flavour and overall quality of the product. Eating and drinking is about the entire experience ‒ cheapening the ingredients cheapens the experience. Cheap experiences do not win Great Taste Awards.
For example, for the tea bags themselves, we opted for natural materials over the plastic teabags used by cheaper brands. Not only did this decision help preserve the flavour of the tea, but it also helped get Roqberry noticed by the mainstream press.
My advice: if you have an option, always go for the higher quality ingredients. Customers will prefer it and the Great Taste judges, with their impeccable palate, will certainly appreciate it.
By making something with care and attention you’ll create products that you and other people will love. Test what you create on your customers, refining as you go, and be brave enough to drop what isn’t working. By taking this approach you’ll develop a wide range of great-tasting products. That’s great for your business and put you in a strong position to impress the judges of the Great Taste Awards when they get to taste your product.
About the Author
Kim is the founder and Managing Director of Roqberry. Kim spent 15 years at GE working across a variety of industries and holding senior leadership roles in Commercial Operations and Strategy. She also holds a Masters in Business Administration and in International Management (RSM/ESADE). Kim runs the day-to-day operations of Roqberry and has also qualified as a tea sommelier.