This year once again I had the privilege of a judges eye view of the Free From Food Awards.
I would like to say a huge thank you to Michelle, Cressida, Katherine, Catherine, Sue, Alex and team for making me feel welcome and organising a superb event. The awards ceremony was held at the Royal College of Physicians in Regents Park, London, a great venue, in an exciting location, but also the perfect blend of years of learning with modern thinking, just like the Free From Food Awards themselves.
To my excitement this year I was able to attend the awards ceremony accompanied by my lovely Auntie Manda. We both have foods that we have to avoid due to non IgE allergies and intolerances. Sadly they are different foods and finding foods that we can share proved to be quite a challenge. However, we journeyed together and were able to treat the event as a chance to enjoy the best that the freefrom industry has to offer.
The Awards and Judging
The amazing freefrom industry is made up of fabulous people from many different backgrounds. It is a serious business (and a business to be taken seriously) and the awards provide people with an excellent opportunity to network with other producers, manufacturers, journalists, retailers and customers. Of course there is a fair amount of meeting up with friends both old and new too!
Every care is taken to evaluate and critique each product in every fine detail. This dictates a lengthy process of marking and commenting with many conflicts of interest and heated discussions. An agreement is reached and the final decision made for each category.
This year the standard of entries were very high. There is still room for more popular and innovative brands next year. I judged the "breakfast foods" and "confectionery and chocolate" categories. Personally I was looking for a product with a high level of skill, clean ingredients and a unique selling point. My taste buds were looking for something new or even a product that reminded me convincingly of my pre freefrom days.
Winners and Highly Commended
Overall Winner - Voakes Farm Traditional Pork Pie
An extremely tasty pie which is difficult and time consuming to replicate at home. The quality of the product is clear and to find out that t is freefrom is exciting. It would be amazing if this product becomes available in food service for vending, self service or food service.
Innovation Award - Kirsty's GF and DF Beef Lasagne with a Rich Bolognese Sauce
Kirsty's are the kind of ready meals that are easy to find if you are a non freefrom customer. This lasagne is made convenient, tasty and filling for all. This freefrom version by Kirsty's is full of flavour and looks exactly how you would like it to. A fantastic product that will hopefully be available in every supermarket near you very soon. A joy that it is both dairy free and gluten free.
Breakfast Winners - Primal Joy Maple and Pecan Crunch & Genius Pains au Chocolat
Primal Joy Maple and Pecan Crunch is a fabulous chunky cereal which could be enjoyed with or without milk as a cereal for breakfast or just as easily as a snack any time of day.
Genius Pains au Chocolat allow freefrom customers to join in with a breakfast luxury. It s difficult to see how they have created such a buttery treat without butter but the resulting product is excellent.
Confectionary Winners - Doisy and Dam Maca Vanilla and Cacao Nibs Bar & Kinnerton Chocolate Santa
Doisy and Dam chocolate has a rich chocolate flavour and no bitter aftertaste. The chocolate is smooth and the addition of cocoa nibs throughout the bar rather than on top allows you to enjoy every bite. The maca and vanilla provide a natural sweet hint without being sickly. A great bar to savour.
Kinnerton have been providing excellent freefrom chocolate for many years. There bars can be found in most supermarkets and they strive to be inclusive and safe for people with nut allergies as well as being gluten free, dairy free and egg free. This Santa is fun and substantial and allows everyone to join in with Christmas festivities.
Noteworthy Products and Themes
Smart Eats and Treats Rosemary and Olive Oil Focacette - Since becoming df and gf I have given up bread almost completely. However, these products from May Smat have me reassured that there is a freefrom bread that still tickles my taste buds. This bread tastes luxurious, has a fantastic texture and looks like a pretty and inviting loaf.
Coconut Jam - A thick, dark and gooey creation made purely from coconut by The Coconut Merchant. Perhaps this should be called a spread rather than a jam as it works beautifully as a substitute for caramel. I would put it on gf toast, crackers or apple, spread it in cakes as a filling or more likely just eat it from the jar with a spoon!
Ready Meals - Ilumi, Amys Kitchen, Voakes Freefrom, Clive's Pies, Smart Eats and Treats, Quinola, Explore Asian and Kirstys have shown that ready meal success is within reach for everyone with this years products. These brands have fought hard to bring characterful and sometimes complex ready meals to the freefrom market. They not only exclude allergens but also provide tasty convenient meals that are familiar favourites. If you want innovation in ready meals and savoury options these small companies are providing huge advances in the freefrom industry.
Free From Food Awards Shortlist 2015
Free From Food Awards 2015 Winners
Please check out all the links on the Free From Food Awards website as there is a vast amount of information to enjoy. You can also look up the #FFFA15 for more information from everyone involved plus bloggers, journalists and freefrom peeps