An ice cream and cheese maker has whipped its rivals to reach the shortlist of a UK-wide competition that celebrates the cream of the food industry.
Doddington Dairy, near Wooler in Northumberland, has been announced as one of finalists in the 15th BBC Food and Farming Awards which honours innovative and passionate people and organisations that are changing food for the better.
The Maxwell family business - one of the few remaining dairy farms still operating in the county - started churning out cheese from its farm 20 years ago to add value to its milk business.
Ice cream followed five years later and it has been making a name for itself with such unique offerings as Newcastle Brown Ale ice cream, launched in 2003, and a flower range of ices including rose and saffron and cardamon.
Now, with its profile set to rise even further, Jackie Maxwell, from the family which has run the business for more than 50 years, said: “This is a huge milestone for both the family and our fantastic team of staff and it gives our dairy and the products we produce recognition on a national platform.
“As a family business our ethos is to produce the highest quality natural products from our own milk.
“We are all absolutely delighted to have been chosen as one of the finalists.”
The annual awards seek out nominations from members of the public which are then judged by an expert panel featuring some of the best known chefs and food writers in the UK, who pick out finalists for each of 10 categories including best food market, best drinks producer, best food producer, and best street food or takeaway.
Doddington Dairy is the only dairy farm represented in the best food producer category.
Judges will be checking out its range of unpasteurised artisan cheeses, including its recently-launched Darling Blue Cheese, and natural ice creams made from mostly locally-grown ingredients.
Among other finalists from entries around the UK is a campaign lobbying for better hospital food and an Edinburgh-based seaweed harvester.
Sheila Dillon, presenter of Radio 4’s The Food Programme and awards host, said: “I’ve been judging these awards since they were set up and I’ve never before felt so strongly that food and farming are changing the UK. Many of the best, most entrepreneurial, engaged minds are now in the food business.”
Cyrus Todiwala, chairman of the judges, added: “This year’s finalists are outstanding. The most impressive thing across the board is their motivation and, as judges, we will be spending time trying to understand what drives people to do the things they do.”
Doddington Dairy will find out if it’s a winner when the awards are announced at a ceremony in Bristol on April 30.