Cressida and I have been pretty focused on organising the FreeFrom Food Awards party on March 25th, but even we could not have ignored the ever bigger deliveries of samples arriving on a daily basis for Alex – not only our social media ‘man’ but the coordinator of the FreeFrom Skincare Awards.
Thank goodness, Skincare Awards samples tend to come in smaller packs than Food Awards samples! (We do understand that it is often easier for a manufacturer to have a case of something delivered to us than the two packs we asked for, but when it come to half a pallet load…..)
None the less, the shelves are getting loaded – not surprising given that we have had over 260 entries this year. And not only are we delighted with the quantity of entries, but with their quality. Both Alex and our first round ‘assessors’ who check entries to make sure that they comply with our very strict criteria, have commented again and again on the change from last year. They have scarcely rejected any products on the ground of non-compliant ingredients and have been waxing positively lyrical about those they have ‘let through’.
Setting criteria for the FreeFrom Skincare Awards is no easy job as ingredients for ‘freefrom’ skincare are just so much more complicated than for ‘freefrom’ foods. Forget about just gluten, wheat, dairy or nut free – although we are also concerned about those too in our freefrom skincare products. We need to worry about derived ingredients back two or three stages from the final product (were they originally based on a petrochemical or not, for example), ‘natural’ fragrances (which can also be allergenic) in essential oils – and that is just the start… If you are interested, check out our criteria page on the awards site and/or Alex’s blog here.
Judging is also a lot more complicated than for foods. For foods we need to taste the product to assess whether it tastes good, have a quick look at the ingredients to see how well they stack up in nutritional terms, check out the packaging to make sure it is accurately labeled, and that is about it. But to know whether a skincare product is any good you have to use it – and not for a day but for a reasonable amount of time.
So once skincare entries have got through the first assessment, they then go through a two or three day judging process by a panel of beauty and problem skin experts to separate the wheat from the relative chaff – even though it does not look as though there will be that much chaff this year. Entries are divided into potential award winners who are shortlisted to go on for further testing, products which are really good but not quite special enough to be potential award winners (these are ‘commended’) and the ‘chaff’.
At that point we call for further samples of the shortlisted products and these are sent out to out wonderful Beauty Bible testers, introduced to us by our partners, The Ultimate, Natural Beauty Bible. They use the products for a month and and fill in lengthy questionnaires on how they liked them and how well they worked.
In due course, these come back to Alex who collates them all ready for a final session when we combine the findings of our assessors, our first round judges and the Beauty Bible testers – and choose the winners! Whew!!
Winners chosen, the presentations will be made this year at the new Love Natural, Love Organic show, nestling beside the Allergy and FreeFrom show in Olympia’s Grand Hall – on the afternoon of July 4th to be precise – in case you want to put it in your diary!
It is a bit of a tribute to the way the ‘freefrom ‘ concept has taken over the world that, in 2014, not only did we have over 350 entries to the FreeFrom Food Awards (and look as though we may have almost as many people to the party) but we had over 250 entries to the FreeFrom Skincare Awards. Moreover, what was once a small, slightly tatty little specialist ‘allergy show’ in the dreary Olympia 2 is now a ‘four-part’ freefrom show in Olympia’s Grand Hall (the biggest they have), the first ‘freefrom’ European trade show last year has moved from rural little Friebourg to mighty Brussels for ‘year two’, and the new Food Matters Live event at Excel in November now has a ‘freefrom’ stream of presentations running through all three days level pegging with mainstream topics such as ‘nutrition’, ‘salt, sugar and fat reduction’, ‘future food business’ ‘marketing’ etc. Onwards and upwards, FreeFrom!!