Thursday, 5 February 2015

Free From Food Awards 2015

The Free From Food Awards is the most delightful experience to be involved in. The awards, now in their 7th year, select the best judges from all aspects of the freefrom, health and food industry to judge a vast range of innovative, interesting, up and coming, quality and exciting food products.

Set in Michelle Berriedale Johnsons wonderful home, and supported by a small but incredible team of people, there is top class attention to detail in providing for judges who themselves have a whole range of allergies, intolerances and special diets. The judges are a group of discerning, impartial, knowledgeable, caring and passionate people interested in promoting positive vibes within the freefrom industry. Their expertise is absolutely necessary as the award categories are full of fantastic entries from sole traders to multinational brands.

With a wide range of products from milk or bread alternatives to superfoods and luxury chocolates this is the place to find out what is new and great about freefrom food. In a world where specialist diets can be dull, depressing and difficult the Free From Food Awards is a fabulous force for good, providing information and hope to all seeking freefrom food excellence.

I had the delight of helping to judge the breakfast and confectionery categories. There were roughly 10 judges for each session providing sometimes conflicting and controversial discussion. We all tasted the entries blind with a list of product information, packaging details and an ingredients list provided by the entrant. This was followed by secret scoring and many poker faces before a final discussion on who should be shortlisted, commended, highly commended and of course who should win!

With a table full of breakfast products there was a great range on offer. There were cereals and mueslis, muffins and pancakes, crumpets and pain au chocolat and bagels a plenty! The second part of the breakfast category contained an extensive number of alternative milks and yoghurts with plenty being dairyfree as well as freefrom other allergens.

The chocolate and confectionery category provided an impressive table of goodies. A veritable Willy Wonka's chocolate factory of flavours, shapes and textures. The entries were strong and fascinating and I can't wait for the shortlist and then the winners to be announced in April. For more information about this years entries and the judging process (including how products can be entered) read here.

What I have perceived from my judging process is this;
- a product is only as good as its demand in the market
- we all have differing physical and psychological needs from the products we buy
- for a product to be awarded highly it needs to have a clear purpose, be at the top of its class and provide the purchaser with something that sets it aside from all its competitors.

I hope you will agree that the Free From Food Awards provide a valuable service to both producers and consumers of freefrom products. There is always something exciting happening in the freefrom industry and this is the place to find out about it!

Thank you to Michelle, Cressida, Katherine, Catherine and all the team for having me as a judge. I also send a huge wave and grin to all the judges I have had the pleasure to meet. I look forward to the awards ceremony in April.

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