A global marmalade “Renaissance” is underway thanks to the astonishing success of a Cumbrian festival and awards initiative.

Now in its 12th year, the hugely-popular Original World’s Marmalade Awards and Festival at historic Dalemain House, near Penrith, has earned such a glowing reputation that it attracts entries – and respect – from across the world.

One competitor said it has become to marmalade what the the Chelsea Flower Show is to flowers and horticulture.

It has now emerged that a spin-off sister event is being planned in Japan, where the awards are a huge hit. Indeed, the Japanese Ambassador was this year’s guest of honour.

Awards founder Jane Hasell-McCosh said: “It’s been wonderful how people have travelled from all over the world – from Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Australia. Marmalade has become truly global. The awards have created a Renaissance for marmalade.”

Her original inspiration came from the county’s foot and mouth disaster, when Jane feared Cumbria would be forgotten. In its first year she was thrilled to welcome a visitor from Cornwall.

“Little did I realise it would get even bigger,” she said, pointing out the thousands of entries and the international interest created by the awards to draw in thousands of visitors.

“We’re now planning a sister event under our umbrella in Japan,” added Jane. This year’s winners included Atsuko Hayashi, whose efforts earned her three gold medals.

There were some touching stories behind the marmalades on display. Ed Noble, 70, entered a marmalade made in celebration of his and his wife Chris’s golden wedding anniversary.

Maggie Crowther, 56, from Morecambe, won silver medals, having caught the marmalade bug after first coming to the awards in 2012. “It’s the Chelsea Flower Show of the marmalade world,” she said.

Lebanese marmalade maker Suha Haydamous won medals for two entries – her unusual Chocolate Fusion marmalade and another called Adma’s Original, named in honour of her late mother.

More than 30 countries were represented. Best In Show, chosen from almost 2,000 homemade entries, went to Shona Leckie, from Angus, Scotland. Her treacle marmalade was entered in sponsor Tate & Lyle’s quirky Marmalade with a Twist category, and will be produced and sold by Fortnum & Mason, with 50p from each jar going to charity.

The awards are sponsored by Mackays of Dundee, Tate & Lyle and Fortnum & Mason. The key beneficiaries include Hospice at Home Carlisle & North Lakes and Marie Curie Scotland, and to date the awards have raised more than £200,000 for charity.