Free-From Food Awards 2013
Michelle Berriedale-Johnson – director of the FreeFrom Food Awards and chair of judges
Good evening and welcome to the Royal College of Physicians and to the 6th FreeFrom Food Awards Presentation – the biggest and best yet!
As you will realise from the number of you here – we are well over 200 this year! – the awards have continued, like ‘freefrom’ in general, to grow massively. Entries were up by nearly 40% this year and of those just over 50% were companies new to the Awards.
So welcome to all of you newbies – an extra big welcome to all of our old friends – and, of course, an extra, extra big welcome to Antony who I am delighted to say is with us again this year to present the Awards.
Now I am sorry to apparently be cutting in on your drinking and networking time so early this year but it is, hopefully, for your benefit.
Firstly – we wanted you to have plenty of time to celebrate and mingle after the presentation – there is a great deal of gluten free beer chilled and waiting for you and – for non beer-drinkers this year we also have, thanks to Good Wine on Line, some excellent sulphite free wines …
But secondly, we are starting the presentations early because, this year, for the first time, we have organised a tasting buffet of the winning products for you to try! I say ‘tasting’ because it has been somewhat of a mission, as you might imagine, getting hold of enough of the products without the winners – whoever you may be out there – actually knowing what we were at. As a result, there is not a massive amount of each product so please, no matter how delicious, restrict yourself to a teaspoon of each winner! The products will appear, as if by magic, on the buffet tables at the bottom of the room, after Marble Mo has been allocated his new billet for next year!
Now, because the Awards would never happen if it were not for the help and support we get from everyone involved, before I say anything else, I would I would like to say our thank yous.
First to Antony who way back in 2008 saw the potential of the Awards and has remained our patron and supporter ever –
Next to our sponsors who you see up on the signs behind me – and on the wall opposite. Every year we have this brilliant mix of long term supporters and newcomers to FreeFrom – and without you all, we would never get even the first of those endless emails with which we bombard you all out at all – so thank you!
Then our huge roster of judges – many of whom are here tonight. Because of the diverse backgrounds of our judging panels (food industry people, chefs, cookery writers, raw food enthusiasts, journalists, freefrom bloggers, food photographers, dietitians, nutritionists, coeliacs, food allergy sufferers and a good sprinkling of ‘normal’ people who benchmark the products against ‘non freefrom’ food) the judging sessions are always fascinating – often heated, always argumentative, but hugely interesting. Nonetheless, our judges give up big chunks of their day – sometime their week – and we are very grateful.
Big thanks also to the Royal College of Physicians. This was the first time that they have dealt with anything as off the wall as Freefrom Food Awards – their more usual fare is conferences on such topics as ‘Acute hepatitis to chronic cirrhosis: all you need to know about liver disease’! But they have been wonderfully patient and helpful with us. Very especial thanks to Chef David who not only devised us a delicious menu that is gluten, wheat, dairy, egg and nut free – but who turned not a hair when we asked him to heat, cool, cook, chill and present nearly 25 assorted winning products which had nothing to do with his menu! Cressida and I were both heading rapidly for a nervous breakdown when he took us in hand so we are very grateful!
Finally, thank you to the ever growing band of ‘in house’ staff without whom nothing at all would ever happen!
First and foremost – thank you to Cressida – who, as you all know, is both the brains and the action behind all of the Awards activity. Without her chaos would reign – under her guiding hand the whole immensely complicated business runs like clockwork!
But thank you also to Katherine who runs the kitchen during the judging sessions (among her achievements this year was organising 22 pastas to be tasted on the trot….) and to Sue Cane who originally joined us to run the beer sessions but has now become an integral part of the Awards team.
And thank you also this year to Alex Gazzola – who many of you will know as a health journalist specialising in coeliac disease and food intolerance and who tweeters will know as @HealthJourno. Alex not only runs our sister FreeFrom Skincare Awards but now also runs our five twitter accounts and will be sending out live tweets this evening as the winners are announced. For those of you armed with smartphones, the hashtag will be #FreeFromFoodAwards and RTs would be greatly appreciated!
FreeFrom in 2013
This has been an exciting year in freefrom. Surveys through the year have suggested that the UK freefrom market, which grew by 109% between 2006 and 2011, will continue to grow at around 15% year on year reaching well over £500 million by 2016 – while the world wide market for gluten-free food alone is expected to reach over $6 billion by 2017. Meanwhile, a Mintel report suggests that 15% of UK consumers now avoid certain foods ‘to be on the safe side’ while a further 17% say that they refuse to eat certain foods ‘in order to live a healthier lifestyle’.
All of which reinforces the now widely held belief that although the number of coeliacs and genuinely food allergic/intolerant people is growing, the real growth in the market for ‘freefrom’ is among those who are choosing, for health or ethical reasons, to exclude gluten and dairy from their diets.
This is very exciting in that it obviously enormously widens the potential market for freefrom food – but, in their rush to accommodate the wider market, manufacturers need to remember that freefrom food must, to retain its integrity and therefore that very market, remain vigilant, transparent and meticulous in its exclusion of allergens.
However, this wider market has already attracted some big players. Warburtons were early adventurers into gluten-free territory and the launch, earlier this year, of gluten-free pizzas from nearly all of the high street pizza houses and delivery chains was another major step for freefrom. However the appearance of the new range of Heinz gluten-free pastas this month spread the freefrom net even further, now pulling in not just the nationals but the multi nationals.
Not that the UK has ever had exclusivity on freefrom – we have had entrants from around Europe and across the Atlantic for a couple of years. However, 2013 sees the launch of the first ever European freefrom trade show, FreeFrom Food 2013 in Freiburg in June – organised by awards partners Expo Communications. You will have noticed their stand downstairs as you arrived tonight.
We will certainly be there and if any of your are interested in either exhibiting at or visiting the show do track down Expos’ Ronald Holman and talk to him – or follow the links from the Awards or our FreeFrom Foodsmatter site.
If you were paying attention as you arrived downstairs this evening you will also have noticed information about another group – but although ‘free’ and ‘from’ feature in their title, they have nothing to do with freefrom food. It is the charity Freedom From Torture.
As you will obviously have realised from the size of the gathering tonight, the FreeFrom Food Awards have now truly become established and we felt that having reached nearly 350 entries and over 200 guests to the presentation, maybe we were now grown up enough to adopt a charity.
Freedom From Torture, who some of you may have already met as the Medical Foundation for the Care of the Victims of Torture, is an amazing charity which does just that – provides care and support to survivors of torture who arrive in the UK from around the world and, almost more important, help them to negotiate the tortuous and humiliating process of seeking asylum here. As they say, survivors of torture have often stood up to appalling violence and intimidation with great bravery, most have been targeted because of their race, religion, gender, sexuality or political stance, all have been subject to savage physical, sexual or psychological violence at the hands of others. They have fled for their lives leaving everything behind and enduring long and hazardous journeys seeking sanctuary. They can face permanent disability, pain and scarring, post traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks, insomnia, and nightmares and depression.
Freedom from Torture helps them not only to survive but to piece their lives back together again in a new and strange country. If you would like to know more about their work, do take some of their leaflets or talk to Noreen McKeever who is here with us tonight.
How are we going to support them? Well, their logo now appears on all of the FoodsMatter sites with a link to their site and their donations page – and next year we will be donating 10% of each of your entry fees to the 2014 awards to the charity. We will also be inviting you to match our donation.
So, on to next year’s awards. We have a lot planned – and since she will, once again, be organising them…. I am going to ask Cressida to tell you about them.
Good evening everyone – and really lovely to see so many of you here!
It was fantastic to have such a great diversity of products entered for this year’s awards but one of the problems that we always face is allocating them to the most appropriate category. What is more, you are all very unpredictable in your entries! For example, we had so few puddings entered in 2012 that we decided to axe the pudding category for 2013 – at which point, naturally, we had a large selection of pudding manufacturers hammering on our doors!
So for next year we have tried to design the categories to spread our nets wider. So, for example, we are planning a Breakfast Food category which will incorporate not only breakfast cereals but also breakfast baked goods and all of those milks, yogurts and spreads, be they goat, sheep, camel or plant based, that you would normally eat at breakfast time.
Similarly, we are planning an After Dinner category which will include all of those puddings (and you had jolly well better put them up for entry next year!), but also cheese (goat, sheep, buffalo, soya or other…), cheese biscuits and chocolates and petit fours.
This will allow us space for the classic categories (such as breads, cakes, biscuits and cookies, ready meals and gluten free beer), for our very successful new entrants over the last two years (children’s food, raw foods and superfoods, store cupboard and nut free) – and for a couple of exciting new categories.
One of these, building on the success of the gluten-free beers, is sulphite free or very low sulphite wine. Sulphites are a very common yet little recognised allergen, and a sulphite sensitivity more or less precludes you from drinking any wine at all so this will be a very exciting category for sulphite sensitives!
In our other new category we want to focus on the buzz food of the moment, ‘food to go’ – which includes everything from individual packs of chocolate soya or oat milks to gluten free panini or gluten and wheat free cakes bars – and a great deal more. We will be working with the vending machine consultancy 24 Vend this summer at the Being Healthy exhibition in June as we feel that freefrom in vending machines could be a massive but as yet untapped market – and we feel that a ‘food to go’ category would be a brilliant way to get you all involved and break into this potentially very lucrative market.
We do have one more idea for next year – but that is an even more ambitious one and we are not even sure that we will manage to get it off the ground in time for next year’s awards… So I will hand you back to Michelle to tell you about it while I go and worry about that winners’ buffet!
Our last new category is indeed, somewhat ambitious. So much so that although we are aiming for 2014, it may not actually happen till 2015.
With the launch of gluten-free pizzas in so many high street chains and the impending allergen regulations for food service due to come into force in 2014, we realize that, although our food service category for foods manufactured to go into food service, plays an important part in freefrom, we really need to be looking at the freefrom food served in the restaurants themselves.
And not only at the food, but at the allergen awareness and the allergen information on offer in restaurants offering freefrom food. However, as you will realise, this is a whole different ball game from judging freefrom food.
We are therefore currently evaluating the feasibility of launching, for 2014, a completely new award, the FreeFrom Restaurant Award, aimed not at individual restaurants but, in keeping with the awards requirement that entries should be available across the UK, at chains of restaurants operating across the UK. This is not something that we could administer ourselves so getting it off the ground depends on us identifying suitable partners – not to mention suitable entrants! Anyhow, we are working on it – and we will keep you informed…
Meanwhile – whatever about next year – what you are here for tonight is this year’s awards – so let us get on with it!
Please now go to the Winners' pages for the winners, the highly commended and the commended products in each category, along with the judges' comments but return to this page for the presentation of the winner of the FAIR Trophy for the Best FreeFrom Food 2013.
So….. the moment you have all been waiting for – who gets to give a home to Marble Mo for the next twelve months?
Well, as you know, the winner of the FAIR Trophy for the best FreeFrom
There were some pretty hot contenders this year but it finally boiled down to four products. So here we go with the runners up…. In, of course, alphabetical order!
Runner up number one was Christine’s Puddings’ really delicious classic Frangipane tarts with their excellent gluten and dairy free tart cases and their perfectly balanced almondy middles.
Runner up number two was The Indian Coeliac’s gluten-free paratha – because it was such an un unusual product and was really breaking such new ground – yet worked really well.
Runner up number three was Lifestyle Catering’s Catalan Pork. This product illustrates very well what potential there is in the freefrom world for manufacturers who choose to make products that would be naturally freefrom but then go the extra mile to ensure that they really are.
So – that just leaves one of my four…
The winner of the FAIR trophy
And here is Emma Johnson
If you have any queries or would like to talk to us about the project - please email
Michelle or call on 020 7722 2866