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Awards

Allergy Blog Awards 2017

allergy blog awards 2017
Last weekend, I went to the Allergy Blog Awards UK event, because one of you nominated Free From, and we were shortlisted for an award. A big thank you to whoever that was!

And thank you, too, to Lindsay, from Allergy Blog Awards, for organising the event—which was a triumph—and to Asda, for sponsoring it. This was the first year of the Awards, so it was a gamble for all involved… a bit like hosting a party: what if nobody comes?

In fact, of course, a range of great bloggers were nominated and shortlisted, and I met many of them at the weekend. Do go and check out the full shortlist, because there is some great work going on.

Award winners 2017

The 2017 winners were:

Why are the Allergy Blog Awards important?

Apart from a fun evening out for the finalists, why does this matter to you?

Awards like this are important for a number of reasons:

  • they recognise the hard work and achievement of the bloggers involved; and recognition encourages people to continue to create content—which in turn helps their readers—typically people dealing with health issues
  • lists of successful blogs like this one make it easier for people to find good content online; which helps people find support, answers to questions, and new ideas to try
  • they bring together the community of people working in the same space; and, just as when our daughter was newly-diagnosed we found it helpful to talk to other parents of newly-diagnosed children, the community of bloggers—all of whom are dealing with related but slightly different issues—find mutual support in talking to others. We all have things to learn from each other, and this in turn, can only improve the information available to you online.

Awards also matter to the sponsoring companies; in this case, Asda, who stepped up and decided to support the fledgling Allergy Awards UK. They matter because:

  • sponsoring awards like this highlights the importance of the Free From market to the company; great marketing
  • it brings together the sponsoring company and bloggers who may have some influence online, and can help promote their individual products—if they like them
  • it is a chance to promote some of their newer products, which people may not yet be aware of. We don’t have an Asda near us, so I don’t know much about their range… but Coeliac Daughter does, now that she is away at university, and she tells me that “Asda do the best cakes”. Asda gave the finalists a goodie bag of Asda Free From products (including butterfly cakes and brownie mix), which have been whisked away by Coeliac Daughter, to be enjoyed at university. So now I know!

All in all, then, congratulations not only to the winners of each category, but also to the Allergy Blog Awards team. And a big thank you to Asda for sponsoring the event, and to you for nominating Free From.

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!