The weather was damp and the cobble stones gleamed after a recent April shower, but my best boots clipped along excitedly, taking me to the FreeFrom Food Awards 2012 at the London Docklands Museum.
I was on my way to the allergy event of the year in the UK, a close first before the Allergy Show which is also not to be missed on 18-20th May, Olympia, London – a great chance to actually try out some of the award winning foods and meet the creators.
It was an opportunity to network, put faces to the names you meet online and it really was a showcase for what’s so amazing about freefrom food.
The Winner of the Free From Food Awards 2012, Vian Nguyen of Vegusto wins with his mild aromatic dairy-free cheese. A cheese that is free from dairy, soya and egg and tastes just like real cheese. It is however made with nuts; almonds and cashews, so it’s off the menu for me and any other nut allergic people out there, but truly ground breaking. Anyone who has tried freefrom cheese in the past will know that whilst some are OK, if we’re honest they struggle to match up to real cheese.
It was a very different feeling to attending my first FreeFrom food awards last year when I hardly knew anyone. This year after being very priviliged to actually judge some of the amazing entrants in the Awards it was great to be involved and to have that extra understanding and experience of how much work goes on to make these awards happen. You can read my review of last year’s awards, “What happened at the FreeFrom Food Awards 2011”.
For an insight into the judging process read also “Judging the FreeFrom Food Awards – Shhhh Ruth!”
My mind is now full up with dreams of the Foodamentalists pies, It’s Only Natural’s fruity lollies and desserts, Daas gluten free beer, Sweetcheeks cup cakes… I could go on.
I was especially pleased to see Liz from The Cake Crusader win in the cake section. As joint winner alongside Catherine from Sweetcheeks (whose cakes I haven’t tried – where can I buy them?) it was great to see two independent bakers proving that gluten, dairy, nut and egg free needn’t be taste free. I’ve eaten Liz’s brownie cake and lemon drizzle cake before and they’re both truly the most decadent un-freefrom tasting cakes. A real treat. My family couldn’t tell the difference.
But I haven’t tasted her carrot cake – how have I not tasted that yet? I shall be placing an order soon – if her other cakes are anything to go by, this will delicious!
I was further delighted for Fria, who won the bread category with their Grova Dark Seeded Sliced Loaf which is really tasty, fresh and moist and also got Commended with their Kladdkaka Chocolate Brownie Cake which is a rich dark gooey delicious taste sensation. I hate sharing it, but it’s so nice that I do, just so others know how great free-from can taste. Great with dairy free ice cream or just on its own. I just wish I could buy this in my local supermarket. I need to get a bigger freezer so I can stock up!
Every entrant who I met described their particular entry, be it cakes, pies, drinks, biscuits, flour mixes and they all sounded so amazing. Despite being very well educated about freefrom foods there are still a huge amount of new and innovative products out there that I haven’t tried. Which leads me to my only bug bear. I love it that the industry is growing so fast but how do we get all these products to the people who need them, who would love them, whose lives would be changed for the better if they could buy them – all under one roof?
I probably shop in about five different places regularly for different things I love, and also, sometimes I buy direct. I then discover that some of my favourites are discontinued due to not enough people buying them – which is probably because not enough people know about them.
In the short term this is the way things are, but hopefully, we will be able to buy all these lovely, clever new products in lots of shops and supermarkets and from internet delivery companies. I do use Goodness Direct, but they don’t stock everything. I love Sainsbury’s own brand stuff, but they don’t stock everything I want to buy either. Waitrose and M&S are good but I still end up buying stuff direct and Fria, which is a real favourite of mine, is only available in a few places.
Let’s face it. We’re all busy. We don’t always have time to place five internet orders, so we probably miss out, and then the producers miss out on orders, and it costs too much to buy from separate companies. Keep asking at your local supermarket or online distributor. If enough of us make a pest of ourselves asking for these amazing brands they’ll have to listen. I was really impressed with the standard of food that I tasted and judged. The industry is truly amazing and growing so keep up the good work everyone.
I would like to thank Michelle and the Foods Matter team for organising yet another fantastic awards. Congratulations to all the winners, high commended and commended entrants. It’s a fairly small industry at the moment but the free from market is growing and what a clever bunch they all are.
I suggest going to the Allergy Show in May with lots of bags and stocking up. There will be bargains to be had and many of the award winners, highly commended and commended entrants will be there.
To find out who all the winners were read: Free From Food Awards 2012 winners 2012
Michelle BJ says
Thanks for a great review, Ruth – and I so agree with your availability moan….. But of course, it sort of is how it has to be with anew industry. I assure you, there is nothing that all of those manufacturers would like better than to be available in everyone’s local store!!! But a lot of it has to do with awareness.
If every person on a free from diet could make the time to actually talk to all the stores they shop in and ask them to stock their favourite freefrom products, even if the shop did not actually do so this time, the next time that some one asked, or they happen to see that brand mentioned somewhere, it would start ringing bells, and, in due course, they might decide to give it a go. I know, it is slow and painful – but…. if we can get there in the end…….
Michelle it was a great event. The highlight of the allergy calendar. I keep asking and maybe one day, in my dreams, I will maybe get my shopping done in less shops. Local supermarkets do listen to requests though so keep asking them. Look What We Found Ham and Pea soup has been discontinued due to lack of interest. I loved the soup and used to buy boxes at a time. Sad when that happens. So we just all have to keep supporting the local suppliers too. One worrying trend is for supermarkets to stock a brand, then stop stocking it and create their own version. I know they want to provide bigger and better free from ranges which is ultimately great for allergy sufferers but it doesn’t quite seem right when that happens. I guess we just keep asking, and telling them we want our favourite brands stocked. I can’t complain really – things get better and better every year.