Awards

Free From Foods Awards – The Winners 2014

Oo, exciting – the winners of the Free From Foods Awards were announced last night!

It’s a long, long, list, and you can read more about all the awards here. Here’s my selection of award winners that we’ve either tried ourselves or that I’m looking forward to trying in the future.

Focaccia per tutti - winner FFFood Awards 14

Overall Winner

Overall Winner of the FAIR trophy for Best FreeFrom Food 2014

Focaccia Per Tutti (Focaccia Mediterranea)

The judges said:

‘Stunning! Ticks all of the freefrom boxes and yet looks – and tastes – like an authentic and delicious focaccia. How did she do it!’ ‘Excellent aroma, good crust and lovely classic Mediterranean flavours – olives, garlic, tomatoes, rosemary.’ ‘Fantastic that it is free of all allergens except nuts.’ ‘Really filling a gap in the market – love it! Want more!’ ‘A worthy winner in terms of both innovation and quality.’

We say:

We’ve so got to try this!

Runners Up

  • Amy’s Kitchen Broccoli and Cheddar bake

    The judges said:

    ‘Visually appealing, lovely taste and texture. All elements work well together – a very, very good product.’ ‘Excellent. Good al dente pasta, lovely al dente green broccoli, well flavoured sauce and great crunchy top. What’s not to like?!’

    We say:

    We’ve tried this, and its a great freezer fallback for those days when there just isn’t time to cook.

  • Bessant & Drury Raspberry swirl frozen yogurt

    The judges said:

    ‘The best coconut product I have tasted – lovely mouthfeel and raspberry flavour comes through well.’ ‘Excellent freefrom qualities and good live cultures – very tasty.’ ‘Fab dairy free, fab texture, fab taste!!’

    We say:

    We haven’t tried this because we don’t need to be dairy free in our house, but maybe we should; I’ll look out for it.

  • Tesco Free From fresh seeded bread

    The judges said:

    ‘Excellent everyday loaf – good texture, lovely seeds and a better ingredients list than most!’ ‘Light, tasty and really hard to believe that it is gluten free.’ ‘Really good seeded loaf – perfect for sandwiches.’

    We say:

    It’s good to be able to pick up a decent gluten free loaf in the supermarket.

  • Waitrose Gluten free egg watercress and chicken salad roll

    The judges said:

    ‘Look wonderful – great lookalike for a normal filled roll.’ ‘Very good product – great to see a vending product of this nature – faultless innovation.’ ‘Fresh and well executed – what a treat – and in a mainstream outlet too!’

    We say:

    We haven’t tried this yet, but we’ll look out for it. It would be good to be able to pick up gluten free sandwiches easily.

The Innovation Award – Sponsored by Food Matters Live

Winners: Venice Bakery large seasoned gluten-free vegan pizza base

The judges said:

‘Fabulous pizza base – excellent freefrom properties – very innovative.’ ‘Great product for multi-sensitives.’ ‘Good crisp crust and great flavour because it is thin – if a little sweet.’

We say:

We tried this at the Allergy and Free From Show last summer, and liked it so much we bought some to bring home.

Commended:

  • Newburn Bakehouse Seeded wraps
  • Udi’s Cinnamon & raisin bagel

We say:

We regularly buy both these. Fabulous additions to the range of gluten free food available in the supermarket.

‘Food to go’ and food for vending machines – Sponsored by 24Vend

Winner: Waitrose Gluten free egg watercress and chicken salad roll

The judges said:

‘Delicious moist rolls (so many gf rolls are dry). Generous, nutritious and tasty filling – what a pity it isn’t dairy free as well. Excellent on-the-go food.’ ‘A delicious vegetarian sandwich (egg and cress) – really satisfies the need of people looking for gluten free and vegetarian lunch options. And they look great. Love all that cress.’ ‘Generous portion and a well balanced mix of salad, mayonnaise and chicken.’

Highly Commended:

  • Great Food Spinach & pinenut with houmous – snack pack
  • Hotch Potch Eggs Arancini

We say:

This all sounds fab; and anything that makes it easier for coeliac daughter to find food she can eat while out and about is good by me.

Foods designed for food service – Sponsored by Genon Laboratories

Winners:

  • The Indian Coeliac Gluten free authentic Panjabi pakoras
  • We Love Cake Gluten free cherry Bakewell tarts

We say:

Again, we tried – and bought – the pakoras last summer. We hope this category just keeps getting stronger; the easier it is to eat out as a coeliac, the better.

Do go and check out the full list of recommended products – and then try them! Let me know what you think…

Cakes and Ale: gluten free

You may remember I was invited to help judge the Free From Foods Awards again this year…The winners were announced at the awards ceremony last week, and I went down to London for the evening.

Entries were up by 40% since last year, and it’s not surprising.

Apparently there is a 15% growth year on year of the free from market, and it is expected to be worth 6bn dollars by 2017. That’s a lot of us eating—and drinking—gluten free…

gluten-free-beer

The two key points I took away from the evening this year were:

  1. The array of free from beers that are now available

    I’m not a big beer drinker, but I was surprised by the range now available. If you’re interested in gluten free beer, then you should definitely check out the beers people were enjoying on the night:

  2. The number of new entrants to the market

    There are always newcomers to the free from market, particularly in the cakes/biscuits area, but it is sometimes difficult for such companies to find their place, and grow from supplying farmers’ markets locally to supplying nationally.

    However, this year, almost every manufacturer I spoke to during the evening had been in business for a very short time. Months only, in some cases. And the very fact that they were there meant that we’d shortlisted them – and some of them were winners in their categories. An astonishing success in these early days.

    Congratulations to everyone shortlisted, big or small company, winners or not—and lots of luck to the newcomers in those first crucial years of business. It isn’t easy…

  3. gluten-free-winners

     

    Free From Pick

    Here’s my pick from this year’s event: either products I taste-tested and particularly enjoyed, or ones that sound really interesting. Sadly, I didn’t get to taste very much on the evening of the awards—I had to leave to catch the last train north.

    Obviously it’s an entirely subjective list!

    • Dell’Ugo Chickpea Fusilli. I’ll also be trying the Cornito Sea Waves pasta (and the Rizopia Fantasia sounds like fun for children)
    • Bessant & Drury Dairy Free Frozen Dessert. The lemon flavour was the overall winner, so that’s got to be worth a try.
    • The Indian Coeliac Paratha. I really liked this when we tried it on the judging day.
    • Hotch Potch Eggs Savoury Scotch Eggs We used to be able to get gluten free scotch eggs at our local farmers’ market… but not any more. These sound like a great replacement
    • Glamourpuds Hot Chocolate Fudge Pudding Pot and Christine’s Puddings Frangipane Tart. I know several people in my house who’d enjoy these!
    • Freedom Deli Panini. I tried the tuna melt panini at the awards evening (the only thing I did have time to try!) and thought it worked really well.
    • Afia’s Spicy Beef Samosa. This sounds interesting. Son recently made samosas at school, but obviously not gluten-free versions, so it would be nice for coeliac daughter to be able to try a samosa.
    • Dee’s Quinoa Pots with Thai Spiced Vegetables and little lentils. Again, we haven’t tried this, but it sounds good.
    • Tesco Free From Three Cheese Pasta Bake. I know my coeliac enjoys this one, though sadly our local Tesco has stopped stocking all their gluten free chilled readymeals.
    • Pig & Co Lucanian Roman Sausage. I don’t do meat myself, but everyone else in my house does, so I’m sure these would go down a treat.
    • Conscious Foods Finger Millet Dippers and The FreeFrom Bakehouse Jalapeño Pepper & Sweetcorn Muffins. These just sound intriguing!
    • Waitrose LOVE Life GF Millionaire Blondies. I was on the cake panel, and enjoyed these enough to have seconds. When you’ve eaten way too many cakes in an afternoon, something has to be good to merit a second go! I also liked: Cakes Divine Carrot Cupcakes (I love a carrot cake)

    More details of the shortlist and winners are available on the awards website. I hope you find something that you really enjoy from these lists!

Try the Shortlist: FreeFrom Foods Awards 2013

five-gold-stars

At last – the FreeFrom Foods Awards shortlist is out.

I was invited to be on the judging panel for a couple of the categories again this year. This is a privilege—and not just because I got to taste 28 different kinds of cake in an afternoon!

It is fascinating, and a rare chance to spend the day in the company of experts in various aspects of living gluten free.

Plus cake, obviously.

As you’d expect, there were some strong views among the judging team, and lengthy discussion. So much so that we significantly overran the allocated time for the bread session (over 25 different kinds of bread, as well as the cake…)

But we—and the other judging teams—did eventually make our decisions. The winners of the Awards will be announced at the ceremony in London, in April. I’m looking forward to it!

Tasting such a wide variety of bread and cake at the same time made some things really clear. One of these is that the quality of gluten free goods is rising, and therefore that the ‘minimum acceptable quality bar’ for products is getting ever higher these days.

Or it should be.

There are still too many ‘good enough’ products out there on the supermarket shelves. I think we should be expecting more.

Some of the products I tasted were indistinguishable from ‘standard’ products. Not necessarily identical, but they didn’t come with that ‘obviously gluten free’ taste or smell. I’m sure you know what I mean!

One or two of the products were so good that I would buy them even if we didn’t need them to be gluten free. (Not everyone in my family eats gluten free). You’ll have to wait for the Awards results to find out which the judges liked best!

So if this is possible, why are there still so many ‘adequate’ products, rather than good ones? Even given the fact that people have differing tastes (as evidenced by the discussions on judging days), it is clear that some products are just not as good as others.

Yet we accept them, and go on buying them.

So if you’re still buying the same baked goods as you chose when you were first diagnosed, try something new, for a number of reasons:

  • you might just find something you prefer
  • it supports innovation in product development, whether this is by new, small companies, or well-established names, meaning that we continue to see new and better products
  • demand for better products will mean that manufacturers will work harder, and shops will stock them
  • and people who live gluten free should be able to choose delicious, high quality products too.

So go on. Try something from the 2013 shortlist soon…

Free From Food Awards Winners 2012

Finally home after an exciting jaunt to London for the Free From Foods Awards ceremony last night. You may remember that I was invited to judge a couple of the Awards categories a while ago, which was fun, so I was looking forward to the awards evening.

It turned out to be even better than I’d expected.

Imagine a room full of people with huge enthusiasm for free from food: tiny specialist companies and big retailers, journalists and bloggers, nutritionists and food development specialists, and add the party elements of delicious (and safe to eat) canapés, gluten free beer and wine… You can imagine the noise level!

It was a bigger event than I’d expected, and more international, too. There were around 150 people there – up from the 40 that the awards started with 5 years ago. It’s obviously going from strength to strength, refining and adding to the categories for entrants over time. Next year, for the first time, there’ll be a category for children’s free from foods for example. Now that’s something to look forward to!

And I had a lot of interesting conversations.

Did you know, for example, that Mrs Crimbles (Stiletto Foods) has 40 product lines? I didn’t, as all I see are what my local stores will stock.

And as I moved around the room talking to as many different people as I could (I talked to about 35 different people, so I did pretty well) it became clear that there was a consistent theme to the evening.

Companies of all sizes face a problem in getting free from products in front of people like us, the end consumers. No doubt this is a problem for all food producers, but it seems to be a particular problem for this niche market for a number of reasons, some of which are:

  • Some of the big supermarkets do a great job at developing their own free from brand (I think Sainsbury’s are particularly good for gluten free food; the Tesco team I spoke to last night were very proud of their new dairy-free range in the chilled cabinets). Both do a reasonable job at including non-own-brand products. In some other cases – and in smaller stores – there is less interest in this market. In all cases, there is limited shelf – and, particularly, freezer – space made available for free from products, which naturally means a limited range can be stocked. So: limited space can be a problem.
  • Another could be the perception that this is a small niche. Some of the companies seemed slightly surprised – though delighted! – by the interest of groups other than the intended group in certain products: for instance, vegans interested in dairy-free products. Others said that their products were not necessarily originally intended for the free from market, but that they were naturally free from various allergens. Both these angles I think indicate that these free from foods potentially have a wider market than is typically expected – not so niche after all!
  • Then, not all small companies want to have their products stocked by big retail, particularly if Big Retail want to white-label their products, or if there is a problem with scaling production to serve the needs of Big Retail. So the reach of these companies won’t be boosted by the extensive network of supermarkets or by their marketing power. And if the smaller companies do without the support of the larger retailers, then transport to the end consumer in small quantities can be a problem, particularly if the products are particularly delicate, or heavy.
  • And another reason is simply that there are very many small companies trying to market new products, and big retailers simply couldn’t stock them all, even if they wanted to. So the small companies have to find a marketing budget to bring the goods to our attention direct. Even with the heavy use of social media, and the goodwill of bloggers to review and publicise products, this can be difficult.

    Even large, well-known brands diversifying into gluten free may struggle to gain traction in the market. If the gluten free brands are a separate business unit, then they may not have the big money of the mainstream brands within the same company to throw behind marketing new ‘niche’ brands, even though they do have the benefit of some brand recognition carried over from the mainstream.

That’s why evenings such as last night are so significant. Winning an award can bring the small companies’ products to the notice of larger retailers, by providing some external recognition of the quality of their products. Even simply entering for an award can spread awareness.

And the publicity associated with the event may bring the brands to the attention of the consumer. After all, if we don’t know that the products are available, we can’t ask for them, and probably won’t even look – we wouldn’t know what to look for!

I talked briefly to the Food Resource Company, which works to help manufacturers from overseas to import products into the UK. This seems like a great service, as I can think of several products I’ve enjoyed elsewhere and wished we could obtain over here. I hope there are equivalent companies promoting our products ‘over there’…

So here’s the thing. I’d like us all to try the following:

  • Make an effort to find, try, and buy some of the products that gained recognition this year. And if you liked them, tell a free from friend. Spread the word!
  • Why not try out some of the online specialist free from supermarkets, such as Drossa, GoodnessDirect or Dietary Needs Direct? These may well stock some of the smaller brands that you might not find in the high-street supermarkets.
  • And if you can, do try shopping online directly from some of the smaller companies. I know there’s a postage cost involved, but if we don’t support these companies, there’s a risk that they’ll fold. And there are many good products being produced by very small companies that deserve to be better known.

Have a look at the list of award winners – I’m sure there’ll be something to tempt you in there. I’m certainly going to be doing some shopping…

And finally: congratulations to all those companies, big or small, who won an award!

By |April 18th, 2012|Awards, Living Gluten Free|Comments Off

Free From Food Awards 2012

I’m so excited to have been invited to help judge the FoodMatters Free From Food Awards 2012!

And I’m not at all surprised that Michelle reports enthusiasm among freefrom and gluten-free bloggers: who wouldn’t want to be involved in this?

Here’s the press release from FoodsMatter

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Judges queue up to taste-test ‘freefrom’ foods

With judging sessions for this year’s FreeFrom Food Awards set for the first week in February, expert ‘freefrom’ judges are queuing up to taste-test this year’s entries into 16 categories of freefrom foods.

Judges come from the professional food world (manufacturers, chefs and cookery writers) and from the medical world (dietitians and nutritionists) but also include allergy sufferers and coeliacs – plus some ‘normal’ food enthusiasts to benchmark the freefrom foods against their non-freefrom equivalents. This year judging ranks will also be swelled by a number of freefrom and gluten-free bloggers, all experts in tracking down new and tasty freefrom foods to write about on their blogs.

Says Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, editor of FoodsMatter.com who chairs the judging sessions

“We have some really exciting entries this year and are particularly pleased to see that previously slender categories, such as FreeFrom Ready Meals, are positively bulging. We are also very much looking forward to tasting the offerings in our new Raw Food and Superfood category – and, of course, in our ever popular gluten-free beer category. We never have any problems recruiting judges for that one!”

A shortlist of successful entries will be published on March 1st and the winners, including the winner of the FAIR trophy of the Best FreeFrom Food 2012 (won last year by Doves Farm for their gluten-free self raising flour blend) will be announced and presented with their certificates at an invitation-only party in West India Dock on April 17th.

Find out more at: the Free From Food Awards website

The FreeFromFoodAwards 2012 are sponsored by Asda (2 categories), Delamere Dairy, Fria Gluten Free, Genius Gluten Free, Genon Laboratories , Hale & Hearty, Juvela, Livwell, Mrs Crimbles, Produced in Italy, Pure Dairy Free, Swedish Glace, Tesco (3 categories).

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