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New Zealand Ice Cream Awards judges (from left) Michelle Sinclair, Craig Davis, Aaron Pooch, Kay McMath and Joanna Boese at Massey University’s Albany campus, tasting entries in the 2012 New Zealand Ice Cream Awards.


Frozen fantasies tasted for NZ Ice Cream Awards

New Zealand Ice Cream Award 2012 judges doused their taste buds with 286 flavours of ice cream, gelato and sorbet this week.

Flavours ranged from conventional vanilla and chocolate to the more unusual and exotic – violet, japonica, and avocado and goat’s cheese.

The 16th annual awards have drawn a record number of entries this year, up from 248 last year, says chief judge Kay McMath.

She is a contract food technology and product development lecturer at Massey University’s Albany campus where the judging took place over two days.

She was one of five judges tasked with tasting spoonful after spoonful from tubs of frozen confection. Most entries are available to shoppers, produced by large companies to small boutique manufacturers.

Dressed in white lab coats, with the demeanour of serious scientists deep in concentration as they ingest and assess another mouthful – from classics to the likes of gingernut, blackcurrant with liquorice pieces, flat white coffee or blue cheese and pear – the judges (from food and ingredient supply companies) recorded their sensory verdicts.

Entries are scored out of 100 points, with 10 points for appearance, 30 for body and texture, 50 for flavour and 10 for texture in handling. Entries scoring between 95 and 100 receive Gold Awards, and Silver Awards are for those scoring between 90 and 94.9 points. Results will be announced next month.

“Figs have been the trend this year,” Mrs McMath says. “We’ve had fig and pistachio, fig and honey, caramelised fig, rewa rewa honey and crushed, dried figs, lemon butterscotch with fresh fig and ginger coulis.”

There are 12 categories in the awards this year, including a new category for ‘Best of’ with this year’s flavour, the iconic Hokey Pokey flavour.

In the Kids’ Choice category, children from Owairoa Primary School were recruited as judges to choose a winner from 19 entries, including bubblegum with gumdrops, candy floss, and liquorice allsorts.

The ‘New to Market’ award, for a new product launched in the past 12 months, attracted the highest number of entries with 86, followed by 56 in the gelato section, 55 in the premium ice cream and 50 in the sorbet category. Growing consumer interest in lower or no fat options in gelato and sorbet is behind the boom in entries in these categories, Mrs McMath says.

But the Open Ice Cream category is where lactic lateral thinking is in evidence. Inventive ice cream flavours include marmalade, plum and horopito, and a vanilla, soy and yeast combination.

While some of the flavours might sound unlikely to the average ice cream fan, Mrs McMath says a good guide on what works, or does not, is the compatibility of ingredients with milk or cream in sauces. 
Thus, a savoury duet like salmon and dill – appealing with a creamy sauce – is potentially a viable ice cream flavour, she says.

Winners will be announced at an awards dinner in Napier on June 7, in conjunction with the Annual Conference of the New Zealand Ice Cream Manufacturers’ Association.

Kay McMath is also organising judging of this year’s New Zealand Food Awards, run in association with Massey University. Entries open in June, with judging in August and winners announced in September.

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