The judges

We will be announcing our judging panels for the live and behind closed doors tasting sessions very soon! Keep an eye out on this page for more updates. 

How will the judging work?

Every entry will be personally tasted by a panel of leading figureheads in the plant-based industry.

The categories will be split into two judging categories; live-tasting and behind closed doors.

The live-tasting categories will be split into 2 separate judging sessions. On 15 October (AM), all entries will be tasted and scored by a handpicked judging panel of industry experts in a dedicated tasting room. The top 3 highest scoring entries will then be tasted live on Thursday afternoon by a celebrity panel. Whilst the tasting will take place in front of an audience, the scoring will not. 

Finalists of the live-tasting categories will be contacted via email or phone as the results are in. If you do not hear from us then, unfortunately, it means you have not been shortlisted. 

The behind closed doors categories will be judged by our handpicked panel of industry experts on 15 October (PM), in a dedicated tasting room. The judges will score each entry and the winners and finalists will be determined by the highest scores.

We will let the finalists of the behind closed doors categories know on Thursday afternoon, as soon as the results are in. If you do not hear from us then, unfortunately, it means you have not been shortlisted. 

Emma Letessier
Freelance vegan business and technology writer

Emma Letessier is a freelance vegan business and technology writer, specialising in plant-based innovation, food technology and sustainability. She helps industry thought leaders and CEOs position themselves as authorities in their field and businesses bring their products to market with writing that’s engaging and creative. 

With a background in journalism and PR, Emma has worked for and with world-leading technology brands such as Bosch, Eaton, National Instruments, which means that she knows how to translate highly technical product information and concepts into language that’s easy for the layperson to understand. 

Emma’s been writing about the vegan/plant-based and sustainable technology sectors for over six years now and keeps her finger on-the-pulse on all the latest business news and technological developments relating to these fields. So if you want a writer that can also lend intelligent insight into the various business players and trends, look no further. 

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Cale Drouin
Co-founder, Cale and Daughters

Cale Drouin has over 10 years of proven entrepreneurial success in Australia’s plant-based food industry. Over the last decade, Cale has launched well-known vegan restaurants and speciality stores and has been instrumental in bringing some of the world’s best plant-based products to his country.

Cale currently works closely with Australia’s major grocery retailers, to ensure that everyday shoppers have easy and affordable access to the tastiest vegan products available. He believes that product accessibility will be the most powerful force in changing Australia’s eating habits – and this means that price is key.

When it comes to producing successful plant-based brands to market, Cale believes the best products will anticipate market needs and push the boundaries for innovation, taste and mainstream appeal. Cale believes the most effective way to support competitive plant-based products entering the Australian market is through a direct relationship between manufacturers and major retailers.

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Erica Gibson
Vendor Relations Manager, DPI Specialty Foods

Born into a family of foodies Erica grew up with a love of ingredients and innovation. Starting work in an independent grocery store and working all departments provided her with valuable knowledge of retail, customer desires, and products.

Starting at DPI as part of the Inside Sales team allowed for further product discovery and a working knowledge of distribution. Now working as the Vendor Relations Manager for DPI Intermountain West Erica looks for new trends and products in the market that would work well for the retailers.

She also acts as a conduit between the vendor community and the sales team for her division while helping people navigate the waters of distribution.

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Florence Dusseaux
Founder, VEGG2FOOD

Florence Dusseaux is founder of VEGG2FOOD, consulting agency for food transition, and a vegan expert. She has been a vegan herself for 5 years now and seeks to change the world ‘one meal at a time’.

Dusseaux works with companies all around the world, helping them find opportunities within the plant-based market, especially in Europe. She is based in agricultural land in France, hence the significant interest in the origins of food from the field to the plates. She sees herself as a big foodie!

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Robert Hoffman
Partner and Consultant, Homera

Robert Hoffman is a partner and consultant at Homera sales brokerage and consulting company. Homera creates sales strategies and services for leading US natural, organic, and plant-based brands throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. Based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Robert has over 30 years of experience in the food industry, having worked in distribution, marketing, sales, and brokerage. Robert has a strong background working the natural, conventional, and club channels, which provide multiple platforms for the brands that Homera works with.

Developing plant-based categories in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a priority for Homera over the past two years.  The company now works with brands including  GreenLeaf Foods, Alpha Foods, Elmhurst1925, and Ocean Hugger foods. The focus has been on identifying the most opportune markets and distribution vehicles for these brands in order for them to have long-term success.

Homera is also a member of the GlassWall Syndicate, a group of like-minded investors that are focused on supporting products and services that make a positive difference in the lives of people, animals, and the planet.

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Tabitha Sewell
Senior Category Manager, KeHE Distributors

Tabitha Sewell, Senior Category Manager at KeHE Distributors, oversees Dairy and Refrigerated Beverage categories. She is responsible for maintaining an on-trend assortment of items for KeHE’s retail customers across the US. Tabitha’s career began in grocery retailers from retail operations to corporate buying and strategic category planning. She has grown her career and knowledge of the food industry with over 20 years’ experience; serving in varying capacities over the last 13 years at KeHE Distributors.

Tabitha enjoys following market trends and assisting brands in finding their path to success at retail. Her passion is searching out brands that have a mission for healthy living and develop products with sustainable practices. Her strengths include category management, analytics, and supply chain. In her spare time, Tabitha enjoys outdoor adventures with her husband and son. Tabitha is active in serving communities locally and abroad through the KeHE Cares Foundation.

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Chase Worthen
Co-founder, Whole Food Plant Based CPG

As a college freshman in 2007 Chase was diagnosed with a gastrointestinal disease. Eventually, he found healing in fruits and vegetables. This led to a passion for nutrition. Which later helped him get a job as a Buyer at Walmart over the Premium Beverage and Vegan categories. During this time he worked with Robin Jeep (Chef & Nutrition Expert) and Mark Adams (Food Processing & Sourcing Specialist) to create a line of whole fruit and veggie smoothies under the Suja brand.

Now he’s decided to partner with Robin & Mark to start Enliven Foods, a platform for plant-based products and education. Their mission is to make the transition to eating plants more pleasurable by providing indulgent packaged foods that are whole food plant-based. Along with digital educational services in the areas of nutrition science, cooking, shopping, eating out, and more. Their first product, Manna Muffins is available now at

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Emma Upshall
News Reporter, FoodBev Media

Emma Upshall is a news reporter at FoodBev Media, publisher of industry-leading publications FoodBev and Refreshment. Since her time at FoodBev, Emma has witnessed a surge in the market for plant-based alternatives with a rise in significant investments, research, collaborations and product developments as an increasing number of companies shift their focus.

In her role, she is constantly interpreting and analysing the latest trends and innovations across the global food and beverage industry as the plant-based sector is entering a growing number of categories. Emma will be looking for plant-based products that push the boundaries while meeting consumer demand for taste, texture and clean labels.  

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Albrecht Wolfmeyer
International and National Head, ProVeg Incubator

Albrecht Wolfmeyer heads the ProVeg Incubator. ProVeg Incubator is the first incubator in the world to exclusively support startups that are replacing animal-based foods. The incubator has worked with over 30 startups from more than 16 countries, helping them to raise over €8 million and launch more than 40 products.

Albrecht has extensive professional experience in international profit and non-profit organizations and is an expert in NPO management, marketing and communications, strategy and project lead. Albrecht was the co-founder and managing director of an online fundraising startup. He studied in Berlin, Toronto, Paris and Fribourg.

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Jenna McGuinness
Head Buyer, TheVeganKind Supermarket and Subscription Boxes

As Head Buyer at TheVeganKind, Jenna sources and tries the latest and best vegan products for both TheVeganKind Supermarket, and TheVeganKind Subscription box service. Working at this family run business for the past 5 years has given Jenna the opportunity to see veganism boom and the vegan product industry surge like no other, the innovation over the last 2 years in particular has been incredible.

TheVeganKind are the UK’s most popular monthly subscription box service, sending a box of new and exciting vegan goodies straight to your door every month. TheVeganKind Supermarket is the leading online retailer for vegan products in the UK, stocking more than 4000 vegan products from all over the world. TVK are a small Scottish business with strong values and a vision to inspire the world to Be Kind, and Go Vegan and to make veganism accessible for all.

A keen foodie, you’ll find Jenna at one of Glasgow’s many amazing vegan restaurants or vegan festivals!

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Neil Shackleton
Founder, Medoola

Neil Shackleton is the founder of Medoola, a expert packaging consultancy that delivers a modular approach to packaging projects. This innovative approach combines the individual expertise of packaging professionals from across the globe to successfully deliver innovation, optimisation and sustainability to clients in the FMCG sector.

With over 25 years working on a myriad of packaging projects around the world, Neil now provides brand owners and retailers with key opportunities and solutions in packaging process, packaging design, innovation and sustainability that add value to their brands and total supply chains.

A Fellow of the Packaging Society, Neil has a true passion for packaging that is prevalent in his work with many leading brands.

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Mirja Palola
Founder & CEO, Taiga Chocolate

Mirja Palola is CEO and founding partner of Taiga Chocolate a multi-award-winning artisan luxury chocolate company from Finland. Palola has been establishing the Taiga brand for export market, creating the networks and collaborations to improve brand recognition and launching the brand and products into new markets in Asia in a record time.

Palola is a scale-up and start-up executive and changemaker. Her board experience in developing and expanding businesses in the areas of content digitalisation, fintech and influencer marketing have proven to be success factors in brand building in the food industry too.

Meeting people, building connections, making every encounter count and quickly adapting to new things motivates her. That gives her the passion to create new and energy to manage the daily routines. Both are needed in making the change.

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Sophie de Reynal
Marketing Manager, NutriMarketing

Sophie de Reynal is the Marketing Manager for NutriMarketing, a French agency involved in the monitoring of innovation, the development of new products and the communication in nutrition. At NutriMarketing she is an innovation expert for food manufacturers and carries out market studies and trend presentations. 

Sophie is also a speaker for international food trade shows and well as being a co-author for the book ‘de l’étiquette à l’assiette : vérités et mensonges sur les produits alimentaires’ and for the collective work ‘Additifs et auxiliaires de fabrication dans les industries alimentaires’. She also uses her food marketing knowledge and ‘trend hunter’ mindset to review international events, such as Natexpo, Vitafoods, SIAL, SIRHA, FIE, HIE, CFIA and more.

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Bob Bauer
President, Association of Food Industries

Bob Bauer is the president of the Association of Food Industries, headquartered in Neptune, N.J. AFI is an international trade association which fosters international trade in food products. The association has approximately 1,000 member companies throughout the world. In addition to companies belonging solely to AFI, the Association of Food Industries includes the North American Olive Oil Association and the National Honey Packers and Dealers Association, organizations that act as stand-alone groups as well as sections of AFI.

Mr. Bauer has served as president of AFI since January 2002. Prior to that, he served as vice president of the organization for nearly six years. In 2005 he was appointed to the Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for trade in Processed Foods. He was reappointed to that committee in 2008 and again in 2011, 2015 and 2019.

In 2016-17 he was invited to and served on the task force that developed the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance course – with curriculum recognized by FDA – to teach the food industry about the requirements of the Foreign Supplier Verification Program provisions of the Food Safety Modernization Act. Mr. Bauer has been an instructor in more than 30 offerings of the course since it was launched in 2017.

Before joining AFI, Mr. Bauer was a journalist. While working in the newspaper field, he covered everything from town meetings to health-related issues to a wide range of sports, ranging from high school to professional levels. From newspapers, he moved to trade publications in the transportation field and then to the food industry. For the two years prior to joining AFI, he worked as the editor of the grocery section of Supermarket News, the leading trade publication in the supermarket field.

Mr. Bauer attended Temple University for two years and then completed his college education and received his bachelor’s degree from Glassboro State College, now known as Rowan University. He and his wife, Robin, have four children

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Steve Osborn
Director and food technology scout, The Aurora Ceres Partnership

Having graduated as an Analytical Chemist, Steve completed a Research Masters on Maillard Reaction Flavours, with the University of Reading. This was followed by many years in commercial and technical roles with Nestlé, Northern Foods, Ashbury Confectionery and Leatherhead Food Research where he became a recognised food industry expert contributing to many international conferences.

The Aurora Ceres Partnership Ltd is a food innovation agency providing Innovation management, product development, change management and business support for the global food and beverage industry.

A key focus of their activity is providing food technology scouting for the food and beverage sector through the ACTION technology scouting platform.

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Olivera Međugorac 
EU affairs manager, Nestlé’s Corporate Communications and Government Relations Department for Europe, Middle East and Nord Africa Region

Olivera works as EU affairs manager in Nestlé’s Corporate Communications and Government Relations Department for Europe, Middle East and Nord Africa Region, and is based in Brussels. In her current role, she focuses on food and nutrition related legislation developments and explores the role of food innovation in health-related policies.

Prior to this position, Olivera led the Communication and Marketing services Department of the Nestlé Company for the Adriatic Region for ten years.  She started her career in T-Mobile Croatia and has close to 20 years of experience in strategic communication and public affairs.

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