What have Quaker Oat So Simple breakfast biscuits, Maltesers Merryteaser, Mars Minis, Persil Small & Mighty and Tropicana Trop 50 all got in common?

They’re all winners of 2014 Product of the Year you know, you’ve probably seen those red and white ’Voted Product of the Year’ stamps on adverts. The awards celebrate innovation across key product categories.

Sounds impressive doesn’t it, especially when you see that the awards are voted for by consumers. Entry is free but there’s a big ’but’. Once a manufacturer has entered a product they are committed to paying should their product get through to the judging stage, and my bet is that most of them do. Manufacturers then have to shell out a ’finalist fee’ of £2,750, which pays for research that’s said to be worth £12,000.

The next step involves shoppers voting online. Winners are then awarded a licence that allows them to use that impressive looking ’Voted Product of the Year’ stamp on their goods but (and this time, it’s an even bigger ’but’) this licence costs £15,500.

The organisers say it’s a small price to pay for the potential sales uplift the logo can deliver. And, to be fair, £15,500 is a drop in the ocean for companies like Mars and Unilever, but the fact that a company has to pay to be in with a chance of becoming ’Product of the Year’ doesn’t sound quite right to me. And, if consumers knew, I’m sure they might question the validity too.

That said, many of the winners are probably ones that would win should the whole process be truly free-to-enter.

Press releases are currently winging their way to news desks across the land, celebrating wins. Would you believe it but, as I was writing this, a release came through to me from Purina about its success with Go-Cat, which was named as Cat Food Product of the Year. The release says that, on average, winners enjoy a 15% increase in sales, and research shows that 86% of people are more likely to buy a Product of the Year winner.

For Mars ice creams, it’s their second consecutive win they won in 2013 for Twix and this year for Mars Minis. A press release states that last year’s win resulted in a significant 28% uplift in sales. So it seems you need to get these products on your shelves, if they sell it’s good news all round.