Judges and Judging Criteria
Judges for the FreeFrom Food Awards include:
- Freefrom food professionals – manufacturers, chefs, cookery writers, bloggers etc.;
- Nutritionists, dietitians and other health professionals;
- Coeliacs and allergy reactors;
- Laypeople and food professionals without allergies to benchmark products against their non-freefrom equivalents.
Because the freefrom food world is a small one, some of our judges will, inevitably, be professionally involved with some of our entrants. As far as possible we ensure that no judge actually judges a category that one of their clients has entered by asking them to declare any interests they may have when we confirm their booking. Should it happen that a judge does end up on a panel that is judging one of their clients’ products, then they are welcome to remain in the room but they may not comment on the products, nor do we count their marks for that session.
What are the judges looking for?
The judges are looking for products that fill a gap in the freefrom market, that display an innovative use of ingredients, that remove unnecessary allergens, have clear labelling and display an awareness of the needs of the freefrom individual.
The products are judged taking into account the information provided by the entrant on the entry form, so it is crucial to complete this carefully. Make sure you fill in all sections on the entry form as fully as possible, especially the ingredients which must be submitted as per pack with allergens highlighted and every component ingredient detailed. Many of our judges have food allergies and will not be willing to taste a product with an unclear ingredients list.
A properly filled in form will allow judges to gain a better understanding and be able to make a clearer judgement of the product. Missing out requested information makes it difficult to judge your product effectively.
The judging process
The food is all prepared according to the directions on pack, and the chefs report back to the judges on instructions / preparation of the products. This is important because these are consumer-facing awards, so the products are all prepared as they would be by the freefrom consumer in their own home, except for products entered into the Foods Manufactured for Foodservice category.
The judges are given enough of each product to sample once, and then come back to again a little later, which is why we ask for such specific quantities of each product.
Any leftover food samples are distributed to homeless shelters through City Harvest so that nothing is unnecessarily wasted.
There are between 4 and 6 judges plus a Chair and a monitor for each session.
Each category is judged ‘blind’: this means the judges have all the details of the products (as per your entry form) – except who makes it.
They are asked to evaluate the products’
- quality, based on appearance, aroma, texture, flavour, ingredients,
- usefulness – does it fulfil a really useful purpose for someone on a freefrom diet?
- cleverness – is it doing something which is really difficult to do in manufacturing terms?
- nutritional profile
- freefrom credentials – has it eliminated unnecessary allergens where possible?
- environmental credentials and sustainability of packaging
Judges take price into account when they judge products – if a good product is a particularly good price they will take note of that; similarly if product appears to be particularly expensive they will take note of that. However, they are aware of the cost of quality ingredients and product development. If a product uses especially quality ingredients or is a new and innovative one, they will not penalise it because it is expensive. Judges assess artisanal/handmade and factory made entries separately and on their own merits; they are not directly compared.
Judges will also take time to make constructive comments that could be helpful to the manufacturers of each product. The judges will call out any flaws, suggest improvements and give feedback worth hundreds of pounds absolutely free.
The judges are then asked to choose gold, silver and bronze winners, as well as the shortlist for that category.
Once they have made their choices, and only then, judges are shown the packaging for each product so that they can assess the design and the labelling for clarity and accuracy. They may then decide to alter their decisions about winners if they feel that the product’s on-pack information does not merit a winning place or commendation.
On the last judging day all the category winners are judged a second time to choose the overall winner of the FreeFrom Food Awards.
Judges’ comments provide valuable feedback to manufacturers, however, because of the large number of entries, we only give feedback on products on request.