Our Managing Director, Christine Colbert, put on her glad rags and headed down to the freefrom event of the season, the 2018 FreeFrom Food Awards at the Royal College of Physicians in London. Here’s how the night went in her own words…
On Tuesday 17th April we attended and sponsored a category of The FreeFrom Food Awards, a national event in its 11th year that recognises those who are innovating and serving the growing industry that is freefrom food. Freefrom eateries, freefrom health and beauty are celebrated too, something which the organisers have launched recently.
Our business House, which is positioned within the sector as the go-to marketing agency in freefrom, health and wellbeing, sponsored the event’s newest category; Milk Alternatives.
So, we rocked up in our posh suits, glam hair do’s and biggest smiles with the intention of rubbing shoulders with some of the best in the industry. From small start-ups to national, established brands and major multiple retailers, who themselves are expanding their ranges in the growing space, everyone was there.
We always say to our clients, you must put yourself where your audience is, so practicing what we preach, we did just that; with our business cards bulging in our pockets ready to share with anyone who would like to talk to us!
All in all, there were 24 categories and many winners. We were astonished to learn that literally every type of food consumable is being developed into a freefrom product, everything from the staples such as bread, milk, eggs and cheese, right through to sauces, pies, snacks, desserts, pasta, pizzas, superfoods and supplements. Plus, there was a ‘Products made with FODMAP friendly ingredients’ category, something not heard of until recently, in fact 83% of consumers have never heard of FODMAPs! Certified products are tested to have minimal “FODMAP Friendly” levels of fructose, frutans, galacto-oligosaccharides, sorbitol, mannitol and lactose.
Many of the products entered across all categories were also free of multiple allergens, with the ‘NO TOP 14 allergens’ a huge category in its own right. For those who don’t know, the 14 major allergens, as classified by the Food Standards Agency, are as follows:
- Celery (not just of the stalk variety, but also found in soups and stock cubes)
- Cereals containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley and oats)
- Lupin (flour and seeds)
- Sesame seeds
- Sulphur dioxide (sometimes known as sulphites)
Now, that’s some challenge! As was the challenge I was faced with last week when I read out what FODMAPs stood for on my radio show, Business Banter on ALL FM96.9, which airs from 11am till noon each Friday morning.
The event on Tuesday night, held at the Royal College of Physicians, was a huge success and I have to say they were a lovely bunch of people to rub shoulders with! I was also lucky enough to be interviewed by the organisers as their newest sponsor too.
I came away with a handful of business cards from people I had chatted to, and the prospect of a few meetings too. It goes to show how important these kind of events are, not only to promote your own products and get the odd award if you’re lucky, but also for getting your name out there; to be recognised, and more importantly as the human being behind that company or brand.
I think networking events get a bit of a bashing, and in my experience that can be valid, I’ve done many a breakfast meeting sitting with accountants and lawyers wondering ‘why am I here?’, but over the years I have learned how important networking is to businesses.
Someone once said to me that ‘know, like and trust’ are the 3 most important factors in building business relationships. If people get to know you, they get to like you, and as a result they will trust you – and we all like to do business with people and companies we can trust.
Of course, brands who are required to sell consumables to so many people of all shapes and sizes across the UK and beyond, can’t possibly get in front of all those people, it’s literally impossible, so building a community of loyal customers by appearing to be more human as a business or a brand is an important factor and challenge to marketers.
As we’ve said before, social media allows brands to build their own communities so they can engage with those people easily, so getting online and getting social savvy should be an important part of any brand’s marketing activity if you need to reach large numbers of people all of the time.
Getting back to the FreeFrom Food Awards event, I think it’s time I announced those winners. So here they are folks!
First up, the category our business House sponsored, The Milk Alternative category, which was not just milk but also spreads / butters, ‘cheeses’, yoghurts and ice cream.
Gold awards went to… Dairy Crest Vitalite Dairy Free Spread, Bute Island Dairy Free Grated Mild Cheddar Style, Asda Free From Mature Cheddar Alternative and Tesco Lactose Free Mascarpone. So well done all!
And what about those FODMAPS? Well the award went to… Anila’s Sauces Fruity Mild Curry.
The big winner of the evening was Orgran’s Vegan Easy Egg which claimed the title of Winner of the 2018 FreeFrom Food Award (and the coveted marble trophy) for what is a truly innovative product.
And finally, there were 3 special awards; Retailer of the Year, Innovation Award and FreeFrom Hero. Best retailer was based upon the number of awards they scooped up on the night for their own brand goods, with ASDA being pipped at the post by winners Tesco. The Innovation award was won by The Progressive Food Company for their individual long life soya milk portions.
As for Hero, well this one was really interesting. We’re delighted to say that went to Jacqueline McPeake, catering manager for Manchester Metropolitan University. And what is so nice about it is that Jacqui is from the North-West, right here in Manchester just up the road from our business.
Therefore, we have invited her onto Business Banter in the coming weeks to tell us all about her story and the new initiative she is launching!
The magic of networking strikes again! Don’t dismiss it.
Missed the night? See it for yourself…