In a positive hurricane of last minute entry forms, the 2014 closed at midnight last Sunday, logging up a satisfactory 19% increase in companies entering the awards. Very encouragingly for the freefrom sector these included 69 ‘new’ companies some of whom are established freefrom manufacturers who have finally taken the plunge and entered the awards, but the majority of whom are actually new freefrom companies.
Also encouragingly for all of those Allergy Show visitors who filled in our ‘food-to-go/vending machine’ survey last summer (most of whom were pretty incandescent about the dire lack of freefrom in both), the new ‘Food-to-go’/Vending machine category was hugely popular with a bumper crop of entries including everything from pork pies and jerky to raw chocolate bars, hummus snack packs and watercress egg rolls!
Also very popular were our two new ‘full meal’ categories. Breakfast included cereals (lots entered), breakfast baked goods, and animal (lactose free cow and other animals’) and plant milks, yogurts etc. ‘After dinner foods’ included deserts (lots this year after very meagre entries in 2011/2), chocolates and petit four, ‘cheeses’ and cheese biscuits.
Also high in the popularity stakes were our new Pasta and Pizza category – fresh, dried, whole meals, frozen – any and every variety of pasta and pizza you can think of (we are shipping plenty of Italian judges to cover that one) – and, Raw foods and Superfoods. We have been aware over the year when we do our regular product reviews how this category has been growing so we were not surprised by the large entry.
(For those of you particularly interested in raw foods and superfoods, do check out Cressida’s ‘Raw Food Special’ which went up in the autumn, our raw foods and superfoods directory and our new FreeFromSupplements site which contains a whole section on superfoods. Also watch out for our new raw food site, RawFoodsMatter, which will go live in the new year. For now, check in to the old raw food site which still lives on FoodsMatter here.)
Also well represented were all the regular categories – Breads, Cakes, Ready Meals, Food for Food Service, Scones, biscuits and cookies, Christmas, last year’s new category, FreeFrom Food for Children and of course, with another bumper entry, the Store cupboard category. The only one which failed us this year – although we were not really surprised as we felt hat we were probably a little ahed of our time – was the Low Sulphite wines. Quite a bit of interest but not enough entries to make it a viable compeition. Maybe next year…
So now on to the judging…. This takes place at the end of January and beginning of February and is a pretty intense two weeks for all concerned! Cressida and Katherine keeping an amazing stream of foods to be poked, prodded, sniffed, tasted and argued over pouring out of the kitchen; me attempting to keep our extremely engaged, and often argumentative, phalanxes of judges in order!
If you want to know more about who judges (well, who judged in the last two years – we do not reveal the names of this year’s judges until after the judging lest anyone should attempt to nobble them!!!) – and how we set about it, check in to the awards site here. But to give you some idea of what they have to do:
Each category is judged ‘blind’. Judges are given judging sheets with the description and all details of the products – except who makes it! They are asked to taste the products using the following criteria:
• quality of product based on appearance, aroma, texture, flavour;
• 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.
Judges are also asked to make comments that could be helpful to the manufacturers of each product. They are then asked to choose winners, highly commendeds and commendeds 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.
This may all seem quite simple but when you have judges from such disparate backgrounds (dietitians, nutritionists, food manufacturers, chefs, cookery writers, raw food experts, organic farmers and growers, coeliacs, allergy sufferers and ‘normal’ non-food professionals to benchmark the foods against non-freefrom) the discussions over who should win what can get quite heated!! See my blog from last year for more….
And just one final very satisfactory note. I was able, yesterday, to send off a cheque for nearly £3,700 to our charity of the year, Freedom From Torture, made up of a percentage of every entry fee plus matched donations from some of our entrants. Thank you to everyone who ‘matched’.