IGCAT’s World Food Gift Challenge awards 10 top products in Aseer

In celebration of food and cultural diversity, IGCAT’s 5th World Food Gift Challenge awarded 10 unique food and food-related craft products, selected by an international jury of experts. Hosted by Aseer, World Region of Gastronomy awarded 2024, the competition put the international spotlight on local producers who manufacture fine, one-of-a-kind items related to World and European Regions of Gastronomy culinary traditions.

Held at the world-class King Khalid University campus in Abha on 25 April, the World Food Gift Challenge 2024 gathered 25 products from eight awarded and candidate World/European Regions of Gastronomy including: South Aegean (awarded 2019); Menorca (awarded 2022); Aseer (awarded 2024); Catalonia (awarded 2025); Sicily (awarded 2025); Gozo (candidate 2026); Kvarner (awarded 2026); and Manabí (awarded 2026).

A competition to celebrate food and cultural diversity

The 10 most outstanding gastronomic gifts were identified through an intense evaluation process based on a set of criteria such as taste, attractiveness, sustainability, connection to the region they come from, storytelling, creativity and innovation.

After acknowledging the excellent quality of all the competing products, the jury selected three overall winners:

  • 1st prize, Saudi Coffee Bean Pouch by Zainab Al Kulib (Aseer, World Region of Gastronomy awarded 2024);
  • 2nd prize, Flavours of Latitude Iche by producers on the Latitude Iche Route (Manabí, World Region of Gastronomy candidate 2026);
  • 3rd prize, Dry-stone hut by Marc Marcet (Menorca, European Region of Gastronomy awarded 2022);

And seven category winners:

  • Best Luxury Item, Khawlani Coffee Collection by Morooj AlShatery (Aseer, World Region of Gastronomy awarded 2024);
  • Best Tasting, Organic Balsamic Aromatic Vinegars by Masia Still (Catalonia, World Region of Gastronomy awarded 2025);
  • Best Promotion of the Region, AlSuwaiqah Basket Set by Hanan Issa Al-Qahtani (Aseer, World Region of Gastronomy awarded 2024);
  • Best Innovation on Tradition, Crocantessa – The Krokant of Lošinj by Moby Dick Gelateria & Pasticceria (Kvarner, European Region of Gastronomy candidate 2026);
  • Best Contemporary Interpretation and Design, Date bowls collection by Abdulrahman Ibrahim Al-Aboudi (Aseer, World Region of Gastronomy awarded 2024).
  • Best Use of Local Materials, Tray with Ace of Clubs by Folk – Magda Masano (Sicily, European Region of Gastronomy awarded 2025);
  • Most Sustainable Packaging, Extra Virgin Olive Oil (PGI) by Natura Rodos (South Aegean, European Region of Gastronomy awarded 2019);

The international jury

The jury panel included: Omar Valdez, IGCAT Board member and Chair of the jury (Andorra); Dr. Reham Mashat, Dean of the College of Tourism and Hospitality at King Khalid University (Saudi Arabia); José Luís Marques, Director of Coimbra School of Hospitality and Tourism (Portugal); Dr. Edith Szivas, Vice-President of IGCAT and sustainable development specialist (Spain/UK); Dr. Iulia Dragut, President of Cultural Association Euro East Alternative (Romania); and Károly Szabó, Executive Director of ADI Harghita (Romania).

A gala event to announce the winners

The winners of the World Food Gift Challenge 2024 were announced at an award ceremony held at King Khalid University in the presence of local and international guests from awarded and candidate regions, who gathered in Aseer to celebrate the 10th IGCAT Experts Meeting and the 27th World Regions of Gastronomy Platform meeting (22-25 April).

On behalf of the jury, Omar Valdez claimed that: “The jury had a very intense debate to make the selection of the best products. We based our decision on the assumption that a food gift should represent a tourism destination and work as an ambassador. It should transport the person who receives it to the local market, restaurant, local producer where it comes from and make them travel to that destination with all senses. The visual aspect is very important, as are the materials, smells, sounds, textures, and of course the flavours. But a food gift should also bring joy to both the receiver and the buyer, and therefore the whole process should be considered, without forgetting that the gift should be suitable for travelling. Quality should prevail over quantity, and a good idea, smartly packaged and sustainable, should always be the winning option.”

IGCAT President, Dr. Diane Dodd noted that the Award aims to raise appreciation for artisanal producers because they are the ones safeguarding our regions intangible heritage and need to be valued more. 

Ir. Majed Almuhanna, Head of Research and Preservation of Culinary Assets at the Culinary Arts Commission concluded the ceremony thanking the producers from Aseer. “The fact that all gifts from Aseer, World Region of Gastronomy 2024 that joined the competition this year won a prize, stands as a testimony that they have actually enhanced their capacity to produce and introduce these amazing gifts to the world. For us, this means that the World Regions of Gastronomy title has really created an impact in the region and pushed local producers to innovate their products,” he stated.

The ceremony was an occasion to celebrate and recognise the work of multiple local stakeholders in Aseer who have contributed to developing the title. Dr. Mohammed Hamoud, Executive Manager of Aseer, World Region of Gastronomy 2024 and Ir. Majed Almuhanna from the Culinary Arts Commission of the Ministry of Culture of Saudi Arabia presented the trophies in recognition of the work and contributions of King Khalid University, Aseer Development Authority, Bunyan and many other NGOs and visitor experiences that opened their doors to the intentional guests during their stay in Aseer. These trophies aimed to acknowledge the stakeholder’s pivotal role in the region’s success.

About IGCAT’s World Food Gift Challenge

IGCAT’s World Food Gift Challenge contributes to the protection and promotion of local food and cultural diversity by instilling local pride into local traditions and acknowledging outstanding products from local culinary cultures.

The official ambassador for the project is Ana Roš, head chef and co-owner of 3-Michelin-starred restaurant Hiša Franko and 2017 World Best Female Chef, who salutes the World Food Gift Challenge “focusing on gastronomy on the larger point of view. We need to support more the work of small-scale producers. The food chain is one and we should defend it in its integrity.”

Winners of the previous editions:

World Food Gift Challenge 2023

World Food Gift Challenge 2022

European Food Gift Challenge 2021

European Food Gift Challenge 2020

About the World/European Regions of Gastronomy

World/European Regions of Gastronomy, guided by IGCAT, are working together to strengthen food security through the celebration of distinctive food cultures; create employment by stimulating creativity and gastronomic innovation; nourish children and adults through culinary and cultural education; driving environmental sustainability in tourism, hospitality and agricultural sectors; supporting balance and sustainable tourism practices; highlighting and supporting expertise from within rural and urban communities, creating connections and sharing good practices; and contributing to community health and well-being.

About IGCAT

IGCAT aims to empower local communities by raising awareness of the importance of protecting and promoting distinct regional food, culture, arts and natural assets as part of sustainable and balanced tourism and development strategies. This is essential to safeguarding our planet, health, wellness and local economies.

IGCAT is a non-profit institute established in 2012, working with regional stakeholder consortiums in the fields of gastronomy, culture, arts and tourism. It counts on the expertise of a worldwide network of experts and works in partnership with specialised intergovernmental organisations.

IGCAT founded the World/European Region of Gastronomy Award and is the official secretariat for the World/European Regions of Gastronomy Platforms. Furthermore, the Institute has developed the European Young Chef Award, the World Food Gift Challenge, the Top Websites for Foodie Travelers Award and the international Food Film Menu.