Entries were officially opened for the Sussex Food and Drink Awards 2019 with over 100 Sussex food and drink business leaders gathering at a launch event held at South Lodge Hotel in Lower Beeding, West Sussex.

BBC Sussex radio presenter Allison Ferns hosted the event, introducing all the categories that are now open for food and drink businesses across the county to enter at www.sussexfoodawards.biz

The 19th century South Lodge country house hotel, with stunning views of the South Downs, provided the perfect venue to welcome the many restaurateurs, butchers, farmers’ market organisers, food producers, shop keepers, brewers and vintners from the far reaches of East Sussex, West Sussex and Brighton & Hove at this special launch event.

Guests were treated to canapés and a sparkling wine reception from Sussex Wineries as well as some delicious tasters from local producers including craft beers, specialist gins, award-winning wines, fruit juices, sparkling water, cheeses, smoked fish and honey products.

Paula Seager and Hilary Knight, co-directors of Natural Partnerships CIC, who run the awards as a not-for-profit scheme, were delighted to announce the new timings for the awards this year and introduce new sponsors for 2019 as well as welcome back previous sponsors, whose loyal support and enthusiasm are crucial to the awards’ continued success.

Paula Seager said: “The Sussex Food & Drink Awards is the only awards in the county created to support and boost local farmers, food and drink producers and the outlets that serve and sell their superb local fare. We are thrilled that our Awards Banquet will be taking place in the warmer month of May next year and hope that our new timings will boost even more entries, public votes and support.

“As we celebrate our 13th year, we are so proud to see the Sussex food and drink revolution grow stronger each year and we hope these awards encourage more and more people to discover and explore local markets, food shops and restaurants where they can sample the very best local produce and see for themselves why it tastes so much better.”

Entries are open for the next six weeks until the 24 October for Sussex Food Producer of the Year sponsored by Southern Co-op, Sussex Farmers’ Market of the Year sponsored by Harvey’s Brewery, Sussex Butcher of the Year sponsored by RP Meats Wholesale Ltd, Sussex Food Shop of the Year sponsored by Sussex Food & Drink Network, Sussex Drink Producer of the Year sponsored by Natural PR, Sussex Eating Experience of the Year sponsored by Natural Partnerships CIC. The top ten in each of these categories will be published for the public to vote for their favourites in November.

Young Sussex Farmer of the Year category, sponsored by the South of England Agricultural Society in association with Farmers Weekly, as well as Sussex Newcomer of the Year, sponsored by SRC-Time and Sussex Young Chef of the Year, sponsored by Blakes Foods will close later on 17 January 2019.

The hugely popular Sussex Street Food of the Year category opened in July for entries and the finals will be held in Horsham Carfax on 21 October from 10am until 4pm. Sponsors of this category, Horsham District Foodies supported by Food Rocks, will be organising the competition and exciting market day, where the public get to vote for their favourite to win.

Winners will be revealed and receive their awards on 15 May 2019 at the glittering BAFTA-style awards ceremony hosted by Danny Pike from BBC Sussex, which includes a spectacular seven-course Sussex produce banquet at the Amex Stadium.