FreeFrom Awards 2014
Congratulations to all the winners of this year's FreeFrom Awards www.freefromawards.co.uk . The winners were presented with their Awards by Antony Worral Thompson at a glittering ceremony at the Royal College of Physicians at London's Regent's Park. As one of the judges of this year's Awards, I was lucky enough to be invited.
It was a grand occasion and demonstrates how much the FreeFrom sector has evolved over the years which is fantastic news for everyone who suffers from a food allergy or intolerance like me (gluten free) and Ray (dairy free). This year there were 15 categories in the FreeFrom Awards and some categories, such as breakfast foods, had amazingly over 50 products entered. It is remarkable how some years ago, I had to search a supermarket for anything gluten or dairy free and if I asked a shop assistant, they looked at me as if I was an alien! Back then, you normally had to go into a health store and if you were lucky, find a gluten free loaf which, even when toasted, tasted like blotting paper!
How fortunate we are now that manufacturers and the retail sector has embraced the FreeFrom market and you can find designated FreeFrom aisles in supermarkets. When I asked for Genius gluten free bread www.geniusglutenfree.com the other day in Sainsbury's www.sainsburys.co.uk I was directed to the bread aisle - yes gluten free bread had gone mainstream into the bread section, not in the FreeFrom section!
It's not just the FreeFrom Awards winners who should be congratulated but also Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, Cressida Langlands and their team who have worked tirelessly over the years to raise awareness for the FreeFrom sector. Keep up the good work!
At the Awards, they both announced some exciting news. Michelle said that the FreeFrom sector was the fastest growing category and The Allergy Show www.allergyshow.co.uk now had two shows - London 4-6 July and in Liverpool, 25-26 October while there was a European trade show, Free From Food, from 3-4 June in Brussels.
Michelle also told us about Food Matters Live www.foodmatterslive.com from 18 to 20 November at London ExCel, a new three day food event of talks, semianrs and exhibitions exploring the world of food, health and nutrition including FreeFrom.
"We're going mainstream," said Michelle.
This year's FreeFrom Awards categories included Food To Go and Vending, Pizza and Pasta, Gluten Free Beer and Children's Food covering FreeFrom foods for kids from six to 15.
At the ceremony, Cressida said that new FreeFrom Awards on the horizon included FreeFrom Sports drnks and a Ploughman's Lunch category - yes I would definitely be interested in a gluten free and dairy free Ploughman's Lunch!
This year's charity if FoodCycle www.foodcycle.org.uk which gathers surplus food and makes dishes for people who need them such as refugees. Around 1,200 volunteers provide 80,000 meals a year.
We all know how challenging it is eating out with food allergies (hence my blog of that name!) so it's brilliants news that Michelle is launching the FreeFrom Eating Out Awards this year www.freefromeatingoutawards.co.uk which are being sponsored by Sodexo www.uk.sodexo.com Several partners have already signed up including Brakes www.brake.co.uk, 3663 www.3663.co.uk and the Sustainable Restaurant Association www.thesra.org. The Awards open for entry in June.
Now to this year's FreeFrom Awards - a full list of winners can be found on the web site www.freefromawards.co.uk The Awards were presented by celebrity chef Antony Worral Thompson www.awtonline.co.uk
After the Awards presentation, a wll lifted to reveal a buffet of all the winning products, so we could taste them. What a treat!
The overall winner of the FAIR trophy for BestFreeFrom Food is Foccacia Mediterranean, gluten, dairy, egg and soya free by Focaccia Per Tutti. This delicious focaccia is topped with roasted red onions, tomatoes, garlic and black olives with a hint of chilli.
This also won the breads section. Anni Redi, who runs the company, said "I'm overwhelmed. I didn't expect to win the breads section let alone the overall award. It's so exciting that such a small producer like me should win when you think I'm up against big established companies."
The focaccia can be bought online and is also served at the cafes at the Osprey shops in London's Piccadilly Circus and St Alban's www.ospreylondon.com I'm sure it won't be long before it's served everywhere!
I haven't eatern focaccia for years so it was a special treat to sample this product at the buffet.
In the Store Cupboard category, I was pleased to see that Vegusto www.vegusto.co.uk was one of the winners with its dairy free cheese sauce which I use in cooking. The other winner was Ugg Foods' Chia seed and nut bread www.uggfoods.com which Ray must try as it's dairy and egg free.
Waitrose www.waitrose.com picked up the Award for the new category Food to go and Food for Vending Machines with its gluten free egg watercress and chicken salad roll.
In the Foods Designed for Foodservice category, the winner was The Indian Coeliac's www.theindiancoeliac.co.uk gluten free authentic Panjabi pakors, which I have to say tasted delicious!
Ready-meals are normally a no go area if you suffer from a food allergy, so I was delighted to hear about Ilumi www.ilumiworld.com with its Lam Rohan Josh, gluten, dairy and nut free, which scooped the Ready Meals, Meat Based meals category. Ilumi also won the "Foods menaufactured in a nut-free environment" with its Kerala chicken curry.
For the Foods designed for children, Georgia's Choice www.georgiaschoice.co.uk won with its gluten free chicken bites. One of the kids said "Great - my non gluten free friends would eat them and never know!"
D&D Chocolates www.danddchocolate.com won the "Foods for Christmas" with its dairy free chocolate minty snowmen - wondeful to see such an innovation in dairy free chocolate.
One of my favourite companies Pudology www.pudology.com which makes delicious gluten and dairy free puddings was one of the winners in the brand new "After Dinner Foods" category with its heavenly Banoffee pudding - gluten, dairy, egg and nut free. You must try it!
The other winner was Bessant & Drury's Raspberry Swirl Frozen Coconut Yogurt www.bessantanddrury.com which is an exciting combination of coconut, frozen yogurt and raspberry - gluten and dairy free.
As regular readers of this blog will know, I am a fan of Venice Bakery http://shop.venicebakery.co.uk for its gluten free vegan pizza bases, which are also dairy free, egg, nut, soya and corn free - so it was great to see they were given an Innovation Award, along with Newburn Bakehouse www.newburnbakehouse.com for tis gluten free and dairy free wraps., Udi www.udisglutenfree.com for its cinnamon and raising bagel and Celtic Chocolates www.celticchocolates.eu for its dairy free white rondello - "It's difficult to produce a viable dairy free white chocolate like this," said Michelle.
At the end of the Awards presentation, Antony Worral Thompson said the potential for FreeFrom is enormous as the market is worth £4.2 billion "and the Awards are doing an even bigger job to make it even broader. Everything is edible - now you don't have to tell people something's missing as the FreeFrom foods taste fantastic and no-one should be able to kow the difference."
And I agree wholeheartedly.