A Tauranga-based food company has been recognised in the New Zealand Food Awards 2016.
Heilala Vanilla's alcohol free pure vanilla was named a finalist in the of the Novel Ingredients Award category.
Heilala joined top contenders throughout New Zealand, with a total of 65 products developed by 63 companies named as finalists.
Finalists include Tip Top, Barker's of Geraldine and New Zealand's first Bachelor star Art Green's company CleanPaleo, with a strong representation from food and beverage producers from around the country.
Massey University Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey said the awards were a forum to showcase new initiatives and celebrate industry excellence in New Zealand food and beverage production and manufacturing.
"The New Zealand Food Awards offers support, exposure and connections to the movers and shakers of our food and beverage industry," Mr Maharey said.
"The calibre of this year's finalists is a true testament to the development and growth of the sector."
Returning celebrity judges, acclaimed chef and food writer Ray McVinnie, food writer and cookbook author Nici Wickes and Auckland restaurateur and award-winning chef Geoff Scott, were overwhelmed with the quality of entries and excited by the new types of innovation on display.
Mr McVinnie said: "I had some wow moments. I'm not going to say what they are, but I definitely had some wow moments, to the point where I just wanted to eat the whole lot."
Ms Wickes said the awards, "are really finding the best of the best that is in this country," which keeps her coming back as a judge year after year.
Winning products are eligible to use the New Zealand Food Awards "Quality Mark", which highlights the superiority of products to both consumers and industry, and can help boost sales and distribution domestically and internationally.
The New Zealand Food Awards winners will be announced at a gala dinner at the Auckland Museum, MC'd by broadcaster and food critic Jesse Mulligan, on October 13. For more information, please visit www.foodawards.co.nz.