The Free-From Food Awards and what they look for

The Free From Food Awards (FFFA) are dedicated to free-from food and drink products and innovation. Now in its fifteenth year, the distinctive yellow logo is coveted by producers of free-from products and noticed by retailers and allergy-aware consumers alike. The awards pride themselves on supporting, promoting and encouraging new allergen-free product development. In a recent Food Founders Interview, we delved into the origins and growth of these awards, gaining valuable insights from the founders, Cressida Langlands and Nicki Clowes.

How the awards started

Free From Food Awards logoThe Free From Food Awards originated from a tasting grid in Foods Matter magazine. This evolved into the awards as demand for free-from products grew. As more and more free-from products have become available, it’s become a more extensive and dedicated platform to raise awareness and acknowledge excellence in the sector.

The founders’ journey

The founders, Cressida and Nicki, have played pivotal roles in the awards’ growth over the past 15 years. Initially managing subscriptions for Foods Matter, Cressida swiftly transitioned to administering the awards due to their growing popularity. Nicki, with over 15 years of retail experience at Tesco, brought a wealth of industry insight, having managed the free-from category for the supermarket. She previously collaborated with Cressida as an entrant and award sponsor, giving her a 360-degree view of the retail side and awards process.

How the awards grew

In its early years, the FFFAs collaborated with the renowned restaurateur Anthony Worrall Thompson, known at the time as one of the few chefs incorporating free-from options into his menus. The first presentation party for the awards was held at his Notting Hill restaurant. Despite challenges like Brexit and the pandemic, the awards have steadily grown. The founders attribute this success to the awards’ unique role in celebrating innovation and inclusivity.

Free From Food Awards criteria

The Free From Food Awards is centred on a commitment to consumers, acknowledging that it exists purely because of the unique needs of people with allergies and intolerances. While primarily industry-focused, the awards maintain a consumer-facing approach, ensuring they address their needs. Products eligible for entry must be free from at least one of the top 14 major allergens, feature clear labelling, and be nationally available (in most categories).

The awards are also blind judged, which really levels the playing field, giving smaller, emerging brands the same opportunities as more established businesses and supermarket own-label offerings. The awards are entirely independent, supported by sponsorship and entry fees only. Entry fees scale with company turnover, making them accessible to start-ups and scale-ups.

Celebrating the best in free-from

Today, the Free From Food Awards are a highly anticipated event in the food calendar. The team is small but dedicated, and they provide entrants with feedback and are available with advice for free-from brands, actively encouraging innovation and new product development. Since 2008, thousands of free-from products have been blind tasted by the FFF Awards’ specialist judging panels, featuring chefs, developers, manufacturers, nutritionists and allergy reactors – many well-known in the food and allergy worlds.

For producers keen to enter, the Free From Food Awards 2024 are open for entry until February 16th.

In our latest podcast, Cressida and Nicki share more about what they look for, how the free from space is changing, what supermarkets are looking for, and how the attitudes and expectations of retailers, distributors and foodservice continue to evolve.

To learn more about the awards and their work supporting producers, listen to the podcast.