FreeFrom Food Awards – the party – 2014!
Ruth Holroyd of What Allergy? reports...
Seven years on from their humble beginnings in 2008, The FreeFrom Food Awards have grown to a pretty impressive 17 categories with over 350 entries from 150 companies. This year, almost half of these companies were new to the awards – which shows how fast freefrom is growing.
The awards party is a chance to meet the faces behind your favourite brands, network with fellow bloggers and discuss the products you love. It is also a really fun night out with loads of lovely (all ‘freefrom’) food and drink to enjoy.
This year saw the introduction of many new categories including Breakfast, Food-to-go & Vending, Pizza and pasta and After Dinner Foods. There was also a special award for Green’s Gluten-free Beers for ‘services to the gluten-free beer industry’. You can find a details of all the winning, highly commended and commended products on the awards site so I will only tell you about the over all winner and my own special favourites.
‘Stunning! Ticks all of the freefrom boxes and yet looks – and tastes – like an authentic and delicious focaccia!’ was what the judges said about the winner, Focaccia per Tutti's very clever Focaccia Mediterranea. Sadly this was not a product for me as the only allergen of which it was not free was nuts!! It was, however, free of gluten, wheat, dairy, eggs and soya… And it smelled – and looked – delicious!
My special favourites, all of whom bagged awards in their categories, were, in no particular order:
Ilumi Lamb Rogan Josh and Kerala chicken curry. To be able to enjoy a tasty and spicy curry when you have a nut allergy is truly awesome.
Bessant and Drury frozen and unfrozen yogurts. To rediscover the long lost world
of yogurts and ice cream – eat your dairy free heart out!
Greens, Celia…. Hell! All the beer entrants – I could drink them all. To be able to drink beer again, and very good beer at that, is pretty epic.
Nairns. Thank you for the biscuits that just keep on getting better and better.
Newburn Bakehouse. Great products which continue to impress including gluten free wraps the new Thins!
Venice Bakery. For totally freefrom pizza bases and flat breads – I am loving experimenting with dairy and tomato free toppings.
And these are just the winners that are totally freefrom and therefore suitable for a multiple allergic like myself. But, please – more products that are freefrom nuts, eggs, dairy and soya next year!
For someone who lives with multiple allergies these awards are really terrific. You get used to coping: cooking from scratch, preparing every meal, shopping in ten places, checking every ingredient, military planning when eating out, mostly eating in. (No, I really don’t get out much!). Coming to the awards reminds me that the FreeFrom world is exciting, colourful, inspirational and innovative – and I am proud to be part of it. If you don’t have allergies or coeliac disease you might not appreciate quite how utterly exciting and life changing it is to discover a biscuit, pizza-base or pudding you can actually eat – to find a foccacia is mind blowing! It’s like being a big kid in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, except there is far more than just chocolate on offer.
And they really are friendly awards; everyone is so pleased, supportive and genuinely proud of their fellow winners, even if they are feeling insanely jealous! Wins are greeted with squeals of delight from the winners and hearty cheers from all of their friends, and more than one winner has been seen only just holding back the tears!
The event was closed with wit and humour by the show’s celebrity chef patron, Antony Worrall-Thompson. Antony has supported the awards since they began and is a great spokesperson for the allergy community. He has his own brand of gluten-free stock cubes. He also has an understanding of allergy, having witnessed anaphylaxis at first hand, and is experienced in catering for allergic diners. He called for more ‘sugar free’ products and maintained that, with so many healthy products on the market, manufacturers have no excuse for stuffing freefrom food with excess sweet calories. He also called for supermarkets to realise that freefrom is no longer a niche product but a mainstream one, so they need to cut excessive profit margins and give freefrom the shelf space it deserves.
Hear Hear, Antony!
2014 will also see the launch of the FreeFrom Eating Out Awards which will
help raise the profile of allergies and gluten free amongst food service companies.
Very necessary as, in nine months time, new allergen legislation will require every bistro, restaurant, canteen, burger bar and cafe to provide detailed allergen information about the food they serve. Hopefully we can all look forward to improved understanding, empathy and service when we eat out next year.
All that remains to be said is that all of you freefrom food manufacturers are truly our heroes. We love you. We love what you do and you have no idea quite how much you change our lives for the better. What would we do without you?
For a full list of all winning, highly commended and commended products, with the judges’ comments on them, see the awards site here.
For pictures of the party see here.
For the press coverage of the party so far, see here.