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Awards

Free From Food Awards Shortlist: Old Favourites and New Discoveries

girl excited by gluten free food shortlist

I’ve just seen the shortlist for all the categories in the FreeFrom Food Awards for 2017—and very interesting reading it is, too. Do go and have a look

Coincidentally, Coeliac Daughter was home for 24 hours, so we spent a while browsing through the list to see what caught her eye.

Some of the products she recognised as ones that she already enjoyed, such as the BFree Stone Baked Pitta Bread, the BFree Sweet Potato Wraps and the Tesco Free From Garlic Baguette (all from the category of foods that are free from all of the top 14 allergens, and all available in supermarkets across the country).

We were both pleased to see the Borough 22 Raspberry Glazed Doughnuts on the shortlist for the Start Ups and Small Producers; I’ve ordered from them a couple of times for her, and been delighted by the doughnuts. We feel at a bit of a disadvantage when looking at this category; living rurally, as we do, it’s often hard to get hold of some of the fascinating new products to try.

When it came to the shortlist for the Breakfast category, we just had to go and look up Goodness Grains Chocolate Croissant, because Coeliac Daughter got so excited about it. Sadly (for us), they’re based in Ireland, so we won’t be able to try them—but their plain croissant looks amazingly good (no images of the chocolate croissant on their site, which seems a shame).

I’d bought a loaf of the Tesco Free From Ancient Grain Cob for lunch today, since she was going to be at home. We hadn’t tried it before… It slices astonishingly well, and we both enjoyed it, so it’s not surprising that it made the shortlist for Breads.

In the Foods To Go category, we had to go and look up the Tesco Free From Chicken and Bacon Roll, because we have never seen it in our local shops. Similarly, we had to look up the Tesco Free From Chicken and Bacon Pasta. Coeliac Daughter had spotted this advertised in Crossed Grain (which also arrived today), so we were off to the Tesco site again to look for this and for some of the other new products advertised. We were disappointed to find that not everything advertised was listed on the site yet. Let’s hope they come soon to a store near us…

There are a lot more categories on the shortlist; this is just what caught our eye today. Do let me know what you fancy trying from the list!

Personally, I’m looking forward to finding out who has won the Innovation Award (always interesting) and the newest category, the FreeFrom Superhero Award for the person who has done most to develop, expand and popularise freefrom over the last 10 years.

Free From Food Awards 2016

free from food awards 2016Since I’d helped out by judging the TeaTime category again this year, I was invited to the Awards ceremony for the Free From Food Awards last night. The image on this page is of the list of gluten free beers available on the evening…

You can find the full list of winners on the Free From Food Awards website, so I’ll just give you my own highlights of the evening, based on my notes:

  • I was delighted that White Rabbit Pizza won the Pasta and Pizza category. We tasted their pizza at the Allergy Show in Liverpool this year, and it is simply the best gluten free pizza we’ve had.
  • I’m going to look up Oast to Host products (their quiche won the Food to Go category) – sadly, it looks as though there’s nowhere near me that stocks them, so it might have to wait until I can get south again.
  • I’m also going to check out the Coconom Coconut Aminos, which is a soy, gluten, dairy and wheat-free soy sauce replacement containing 17 essential amino acids, B vitamins and minerals. This sounds amazing.
  • To nobody’s surprise, Tesco won the Retailer of the Year category. They really have worked wonders over the last few years, with fab new products seemingly coming out all the time (they won in the Breakfast category for their garlic baguette, in the Down the Pub category, their onion rings were highly commended, and in the Food for Children category, they won with their chicken fillets, and their Free From Carl the Caterpillar birthday cake was highly commended)
  • I also noted that Tesco sponsored the Start-up/New Business category, offering mentoring to the winner—I think this is a great prize, and likely to be very useful to the winner (Seed & Sage, this year).

There are a long list of other products I’m going to investigate, from Rollagranola’s granola to SweetPea Pantry’s pancake mix… do look at the list of winners and see what you’d like to try.

That’s the thing about the Free From Food Awards; they’re a great way of spreading the word about your products. I chatted to MummyBakes last night (one commended and two highly commended products in the TeaTime category this year, and one product shortlisted last year) for whom the Awards have been very helpful—they’re now stocked in Fortnum & Mason.

So if you are a manufacturer of an amazing free from product – or know someone who is – do consider entering next year. You never know…the overall winner was Nutribix this year, but next year, it could be you!

Ginger is the New Chocolate: Judging at the Free From Food Awards

judging-cake

What do you think about gluten free cake—and how do you think you’d feel about eating 32 different cakes or biscuits in an afternoon?

I was excited to head to London last week to be on the judging panel for the Free From Food Awards again—the tea-time session: cakes and biscuits.

In one sense it was an easier session to judge this year than last, because there were fewer entries (last year we ate through 55 cakes…) and no chocolate brownies. I like a chocolate brownie (though I like my mother’s version best), but there were an awful lot of chocolate entries last year…

This year the key flavour was ginger, to the astonishment of an American judge – apparently ginger cake and ginger biscuits aren’t such a big thing in the US.

You wouldn’t think that gluten free cake had trends and fashions, but it really does, and clearly ginger is A Thing at the moment. And thank goodness there are trends: I’m delighted to see a trend towards gluten free celebration cakes and sharing cakes available in supermarkets. Sharing food, particularly at celebrations, matters; and not just to children.

Overall, of course, the trend is for gluten free cake to get better – which makes it harder to distinguish the front-runners at a judging event. There are always a few of the old-fashioned offerings that just don’t make the grade in terms of taste and texture; but there are an increasing number of innovative brands – often the smaller manufacturers – that are really trying to offer us something new and better.

And that makes judging hard, and means that the judging panel gets increasingly picky. There’s certainly a lot of debate and discussion about everything from the taste and texture to the ingredients and the labelling. We taste blind (so we don’t know who has made any of it, and we’re not swayed by any branding) but we are given a list of ingredients, and told what claims to be allergy-free are made by each product. And these are taken very seriously, and discussed in detail.

What is better, a cake that makes every effort to be allergy-free (meaning it can be eaten by lots of different people) or one that a particular group (say, coeliacs) has been asking manufacturers to make for years and which is technically difficult to make?

And there was lots of discussion about the difficulties of mass-producing cake, and of making it available across the country. One of the judges in the session I went to works in free from for a large supermarket, and spoke about how difficult it is to get shelf space for free from foods, or to get manufacturers to switch to making foods free from (even when it would only take a tiny change). That was fascinating; we may complain about the range of foods available to us in supermarkets, but someone, behind the scenes, has been working very hard to get those onto the shelves. And there was a great deal of discussion about whether those shelves should be dedicated free from shelves, or whether free from food should be available alongside ‘normal’ food.

It’s always entertaining to be on the judging panel, and we all had our own favourites. At the end there’s a big reveal, so the judges can find out who makes which cake, and make notes on which to buy (or recommend that you should try).

No clues here about which were the winning products (it’s a secret!), but my personal favourites included:

  • Creole Fruitcake from Auchtermuchty Cake Company. This was delicious. I always make our Christmas cake but if I was going to buy one, I’d buy this.
  • Fiery Gingers from Mummy Bakes – these were very gingery, with a real kick. Yum!
  • Mince Pies from Piece of Cake – I love mince pies, and these were very beautiful, and delicious. I thought the pastry was fab.
  • Doughnuts from Borough22 – doughnuts! These were non-greasy, and vegan. Amazing. I’m going to find out if they’ll ship outside London…

The shortlist will be out soon – and the Awards ceremony will be in a couple of months. It’s exciting for the judges and for the entrants. After all, I only ate cake this year; there are lots of other categories to find out about!

Winners of the Free From Eating Out Awards 2015

free-from-eating-out-awards

I spent most of last week at the Food Matters Live conference – and one of the highlights for me was the announcement of the winners of the Free From Eating Out Awards 2015 (which are sponsored by Sodexo).

There were lots of different categories for this—everything from cafes to conference catering—and so many excellent options…

Finally I can reveal that I was involved in the judging for these awards this year—such fun…and interesting, too.

And I was delighted that two of the shortlisted places I was invited to judge (incognito) were selected as winners in their categories—and well-deserved winners they were, too!

These two places were a cafe and a B&B (so two very different categories): Labyrinth Cafe in Stockton-on-Tees, and Stonecroft Guest House in Edale.

  • Labyrinth is a light and bright, warm and welcoming cafe/secondhand bookshop, with squashy sofas and comfortable chairs, book-lined walls, and a few small tables for people to eat at. Their menu is 100% GF, and they offer meat/fish/vegetarian/vegan dishes, any of which can be made wheat free, dairy free, lactose free…

    It is the first not-for-profit organisation to apply for Coeliac UK accreditation, which they hope to achieve within the next few months.
  • Stonecroft is a comfortable, warm and welcoming B&B with a quiet, calm and peaceful atmosphere, in a very beautiful area of the country which attracts many walkers and tourists. It is very popular, so if you’re interested in staying, be sure to book early! The ethos of the place is allergy-first, and much of the food is locally sourced, though the owner travels some distance from her rural location to find ingredients that her visitors can tolerate.

    Stonecroft already has Coeliac UK accreditation.

The overall winner was Oscar & Bentleys, in Canterbury. Quite a trek from here for me, but we will try to get there… I heard one of the founders speak at the conference, and watched one of their chefs prepare a dish at a ‘cook-off’, and it sounds great.

Do look at the full list, and go and eat at as many of them as you can. I’m planning to!

In praise of FreeFrom Food Awards 2015 sponsors

sponsors-supportersHome again after a trip to London yesterday to go to the Awards ceremony for the FreeFrom Food Awards 2015 (yes, I served as judge again this year).

And what a great evening it was… it gets bigger every year as the variety of free from food available grows. And the quality of the products is getting better every year too, as companies are having to up their game in order to compete in this growing market.

You can see the full list of winners here but I want to tell you about the sponsors.

Organising awards like the FreeFrom Food Awards is a complex (and costly) affair, and the Awards team do an amazing job.

When I tell you that for just one of the categories I helped judge this year there were 55 entrants, and 11 judges, and that for another every dish had to be prepared separately to reach the table in its best possible condition, you’ll begin to understand that the coordination required is huge. There are a panel of about 70 judges overall, and 17 categories, with many products in each… It’s a lot of work, particularly since the number of categories and entrants grows every year.

And it wouldn’t be possible at all without the help of the companies who sponsor each category of award. Please do read to see who they are, and visit their own websites to learn more about what they do for the free from sector.

This year, those companies are:

  • Tesco, who sponsored Breakfast Foods

    Tesco had a great night, winning Best Retailer overall, and with several successful products, including their savoury party pack selection and their haddock fishcakes. Tesco have really enhanced their product range recently, and we’re delighted.

  • Genius, who sponsored the Bread category

    Genius also had a winner, with their gluten free and dairy free pains au chocolat (yes, read that again: dairy free). These are not often to be found in the supermarket near us, because they get snapped up so quickly. They’re good – and to be honest, we hadn’t even realised they were dairy free!

  • Sainsburys’, who sponsored the Store Cupboard section

    Sainsbury’s, like Tesco, are one of the big four supermarket chains here in the UK, and have been a reliable source of gluten free products for us for years. Some of their products are staples in our house, such as the baguettes – and the mini chocolate logs are a good treat.

  • Integrated Food Projects Ltd sponsored Pasta and Pizza

    Integrated Food Projects are a new sponsor for the FFFA, and they project-manage the development of food factories. They have an impressive client list, including the big supermarkets (and many others you’ll have heard of). Have a look at the list of services they offer; I’d no idea how much goes into building a new food factory.

  • Tiana Fair Trade Organics sponsored Raw Foods and Superfoods

    Tiana are experts in coconut products, which are becoming increasingly popular (have you noticed?). They import and manufacture a range of high quality organic and fair trade products in the food and beauty sectors. Their products are sold to retailers, wholesalers, the catering trade and the food production industry, as well as exported to other countries – and you can buy the products at their online shop.

  • Food and Drink Innovation Network sponsored Food to Go and Vending Machines

    The Food and Drink Innovation Network organise food and drink industry conferences and webinars in the UK, with a particular interest in innovation – not just product innovation, but best practice and innovation across the industry. (I’ve just subscribed to their newsfeed – there’s all sorts of interesting information in there).

  • Udi’s sponsored the ‘Down the pub and the bar’ category

    My coeliac daughter loves Udi’s bagels. Fairly new to this country, Udi’s seem to be adding new products to their range all the time. If you haven’t tried their bagels, you should: the plain and the chocolate chip are the current favourites here.

  • Genon Laboratories sponsored the Meat/Fish ready meals category

    Genon Laboratories is a UKAS accredited testing lab, offering niche analytical services to the food (and feed) industries. Of course, we’re mostly interested in their Food Allergen Testing service, but they offer a range of services to food producers, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. This stuff matters! (Have a look at their Test in A Box site, too).

  • Goodness Direct sponsored the Veggie ready meals category

    GoodnessDirect is a long-established and successful online supermarket, selling a wide range of healthy, free from, eco and organic foods. The thing we like best about GoodnessDirect is that you can filter the products by diet, so you see only the products that are suitable for your needs. And some products can only be found there (especially if you live out in the rurals, like me). They told me last night that their new mobile site is now live too – so go and check it out.

  • Wellaby’s sponsored the Foods for Treenut/Peanut allergics category

    Wellaby’s produce a range of gluten free snacks, in a dedicated gluten free facility. Looking at their website, I can see that some of the products are chips+dips products; we’ve got to try those. I’ll see if I can find out where we can buy them…

  • Delamere Dairy sponsored the Foods for Children category

    I’m assuming everyone in the country knows who Delamere Dairy are? They sell specialty dairy products, including goat dairy products and soya products, and you’ll find their products on a supermarket shelf near you. They’re based very near me (not that I’m biased).

  • Mrs Crimbles sponsored the Tea Time category

    Mrs Crimbles is probably best known for their macaroons, which are widely available. But they have a much wider range than that, including snacks, crackers and stuffing mix. Plus, I learn from the Food & Drink Innovation Network (see above) that they’ve recently launched a new range of pasta and sauce packets. Check them out…

  • Romer Labs UK sponsored the Desserts and Puddings category

    Romer Labs are experts in food safety diagnostics, and run fully accredited service labs. They help ensure the highest quality standards at all stages of the supply chain in the agricultural, food and feed industries – and they have a complete portfolio for gluten testing, both in the lab, and in factories.

  • Free-From Heaven sponsored the Confectionery and chocolate category

    Free-From Heaven publish a series of magazines dedicated to free-from cooking and baking, so whether your interest is in dairy free, sugar free, gluten free, paleo or vegan cooking, there’ll be recipes in their magazines that will suit you. The magazines are available in supermarkets and other magazine stockists, as well as available for subscription online.

  • Holland & Barrett sponsored the Bars category

    I expect you know who Holland & Barrett are. They are a long established health food chain, with shops in high streets across the country. They sell a range of free from products in their shops – but they also have an online shop (which I didn’t realise until today). For a long time, high street health food shops were one of the few places you could find free from foods. Things are easier now, but they still play an important role.

  • Oakland International sponsored the Retailer of the Year category

    Oakland International are a food storage, picking, packing and distribution company, transporting food using ambient, chilled and frozen transportation. They deliver to retailers, convenience stores and food service outlets, but they will also help with trade shows and other events. They offer one of those services that consumers tend not to notice; but we wouldn’t be able to have the variety of choice that we do, without these services.

  • Food Matters Live sponsored the Innovation Award

    The Food Matters Live conference will be in the ExCeL centre, London, in November this year, and is the first cross-sector event bringing together professionals from across the food and drink industry, nutrition and health to explore the relationship between food, health and nutrition. It should be fascinating…

These awards make a big difference to those companies, big and small, whose products were shortlisted, commended, highly commended or winners, creating new opportunities for the businesses and publicising their products to consumers. And as I said, it wouldn’t happen without the sponsors.