This is my 4th year judging the breakfast and confectionery categories at the FFFA HQ. It is a wonderful privilege and the perfect opportunity to meet fellow bloggers, specialist professionals, food writers and inside personnel from the freefrom community. I am always humbled to be asked to join the judging team and take my role very seriously.
As a consumer I spend my life reading labels, assessing nutrition, price and suitability. As a foodie I am always looking for new and interesting products that will nourish my body or treat my tastebuds. Lastly, as a mum I am constantly on the look out for ways to keep my son included in everyday food decisions whether at home, with family, friends or at school*.
The Freefrom Food Awards is a great way to learn more about existing or new products in the freefrom market. The products entered are competing against the best competitors in their market. They are also able to gain a commended or highly commended award. The recognition of the FFFA is an instantly recognisable badge of approval from freefrom judges.
You can find out more about the awards from their page, www.freefromfoodawards.co.uk
FFFA2017 - Breakfast
The breakfast category this year was right on trend. There were granolas aplenty, porridge, overnight oats and bircher muesli. To add to the range there were also power juices, nut butters and spreads, a new almond milk and some interesting breads and cakes. Any of the entries would have made a satisfying breakfast no matter what your preference in the morning.
My personal favourites were broad ranging. For the perfect indulgent freefrom breakfast I would start with a Pumpkin Power Cold Pressure Juice from Coldpress. This sunshine coloured juice will have you beaming with its sweet and tasty combination of flavours.
This could easily be rivalled in colour by a bowl of The Raw Fix Beetroot Power Porridge. Who would have thought that beetroot worked so well at breakfast. The purple punch gives way to a milder flavour and pleasing porridge texture.
If you long for bread at breakfast then you must seek out Fria Gluten Free Oat Squares. These are a whole new level on from gluten free loaves. The texture is deep and substantial but the crumb structure is light and even. The flavour is great with no hint of raising agent or funny aftertaste.
To cover your Oat Square you could slather it in Pure Olive spread. A tasty freefrom version of popular olive spread but without any traces of dairy or buttermilk. The spread could also be enjoyed in baking and savoury cooking. Fantastic to have the choice of a olive spread in the freefrom range.
If spread is not enough then there is a new nut butter in town! My tastebuds were tickled by the strength of flavour in Manilife Deep Roasted Peanut Butter. It was questioned by the judging panel why this product should receive attention as it is naturally freefrom dairy or gluten. However, if a product can state it is free from certain allergens then I am pleased to know about it. In this case the flavour of this product made it stand out to me. I could make peanut butter at home. I could roast the peanuts first and add the right amount of salt but sometimes you just want someone to do it for you, and do it well!
To finish my mammoth breakfast (I may actually be a Hobbit!) I would have to savour an Adonis Blondie. The Adonis Blondie is a sweet treat that would satisfy any morning cravings for indulgence. If others around me were devouring unsafe treats then I would be more than happy with this Blondie. A cake of moist texture and fabulous taste which is also low sugar and low carbohydrate. The Blondie is also very pretty decorated with macadamia nuts and chia seeds and comes individually wrapped. I would love to see these in mainstream cafes and coffee shops, please Adonis.
I can't function very well without at least one morning coffee. The Plenish Almond Milk could help me justify my caffeine addiction. It is made with 7% almond. This is a small but significant statement. The milk does actually taste of almond. It also has the benefit of being unsweetened but still tastes wonderful. I can see many uses for this almond milk not least of all as it is longlife but does not taste like longlife and could be enjoyed on its own.
FFFA2017 - Confectionery
The confectionery category is made up of all types of sweet treats. There were jellies, marshmallows, chocolates and many various bars and shapes. Creating a confectionery product that is freefrom allergens allows consumers to lead a more normal life**.
The judging table displayed both seasonal and everyday products. The seasonal items are getting better every year. This year I was very impressed with D&D Chocolates individually wrapped mint chocolate holly leaves. These pretty shapes were not only great quality but would also be an easy way to have chocolate tree decorations at Christmas. I would be delighted to take them to a dinner party as an after dinner mint or enjoy by myself. D&D Chocolate is guaranteed nut free which is fantastic and is a rare statement made on chocolate products.
I will be having a happy Easter too as Asda have commissioned an Extra Special Luxury Easter Egg. This dairy free egg comes with chocolate truffles instead of the usual coins. The chocolate is darker than most supermarket freefrom chocolate but not too strong either. I can see myself sneaking off to by this egg for myself just in case I don't receive one. The Easter range is not online as yet but watch this space!
I must highlight my favourites from the great range of sweets on offer for judging. Hot chocolate can now be completed with Freedom Confectionery Mini Marshmallows. You would not believe that these pretty little mallows are vegan, soy free and nut free. They look cute and taste perfect. I would happily use these in my hot chocolate, in baking rocky road or on top of cupcakes. In fact I may create a new bake just to use them.
Equally impressive were the Biona Mini Fruit Bears. A sweet that looks and tastes better than non freefrom competitors. There is always a space in my affection for mini fruit bears. These bears are colourful and fruity with a lovely flavour and no aftertaste. I'm sure my 5 year old and his friends will enjoy these without realising that they are vegan, dairy free, gluten free, nut free and have no artificial colours or flavours. I loved them!
On the table that day you could not get prettier than the Superfood truffles from the Functional Food Company. Don't be fooled by the utilitarian name of this company. Their snacks are packed full of gut friendly superfood ingredients and look cuter than a button. I am really pleased to read more on the origins of this company and find out how it came about. Even without any background info I found these snacks intriguing and innovative. They pack a punch in flavour and there is a flavour for everyone. The texture is unlike any other treat, it is not chocolate but it is not a sweet. It is best described as a sweet version of a canape. Full of impressive colours, shapes and flavours these snacks would make a great talking point at a party or equally a colourful way to supplement your diet.
A treat that I have never seen before was a Goupie Date and Walnut Triangle. Who could resist the appeal of a bar (shaped like a triangle) with a goey centre, that includes dates and walnuts and is coated in chocolate? It did not fail to impress. I would love to be given a box of these triangles and would certainly buy them as a treat for myself. It is a joy to find new products that I have never seen before and since reading the website I would love to try their other flavours.
Booja Booja Almond Salted Caramel truffles. Small squares of cocoa powder coated truffles with a crisp outer shell and a soft centre. The salted caramel is a mixture of the two classic flavours combined which slowly develop as you devour them. These divine truffles have the perfect blend of luxury and palatability. Booja Booja is top of my must have freefrom chocolate list.
If you prefer a truffle which is more dense and also includes superfood ingredients then the Sweet Virtues Baobab and Vanilla are perfect. The truffles are coated in cacao powder, have a crisp outer shell and a flavour packed centre. The layers of flavour reveal themselves as the centre softens in your mouth. My favourite flavour entered in this years award was the Baobab and Vanilla. This smoother more delicate flavour was also complimented by the hints of almond, lucuma and maca. A thoroughly enjoyable truffle and a worthy competitor.
Extra Info About Me
*Due to multiple diagnosis of IBS and lactose intolerance, a recognition that I display symptoms of coeliac disease (but have negative blood tests), hay fever, migraine and skin sensitivity I avoid lactose, dairy and gluten. My son, who is now 5 years old, has been lactose intolerant since birth and dairy free since he was almost 2 years old. Sadly, despite our symptoms we are both medically undiagnosed and subsequently fall into no mans land. We are fortunate we do not have anaphylactic allergic reactions. We do have definite, disruptive and painful symptoms from small amounts of our trigger allergens.
**As an adult I indulge in sweet treats and feel envious if I can not join in with others around me. Why should people with allergies not indulge when they want to? Everyone else can. More importantly for me as a mum I want my son to be able to feel included in every day life. This means seeking alternatives to the mass of cakes, biscuits, chocolates and sweets that he sees advertised, comes across at school and is bombarded with at parties. I can and do educate him to eat wisely and healthy but I also help him to live a similar life to his friends.
Watch the website www.freefromfoodawards.co.uk for the shortlisted products out 8th February 2017