24 Mar 2015

You could say that ‘freefrom’ foods are, by definition, innovatory as they require the use of unusual ingredients and processes to create traditional dishes.  True.  But even within ‘freefrom’ some products are more innovatory than others and we like to reward that innovation when we find it.

And this year we had an interesting crop of innovators. Nothing quite as revolutionary as the Genius bread which, back in 2009 won for creating the first genuinely acceptable, gluten-free ‘supermarket’ sliced loaf – or the coconut yogurts and ice creams which swept the innovation board in 2012 – but some exciting ideas none the less. 

So what rocked our judges in 2015? 

Well, going along with the current passion for paleo, they were impressed by some of the grain-free paleo breakfast cereals. These were mainly nut and seed based, heavily sprinkled with super-seeds and flavoured with an array of spices. 

Also in the breakfast area – a proliferation of porridge and cereal ‘pots’ to be eaten at your desk when you missed that early train – innovatory not so much for the concept and the content as for the packaging. Some wonderfully compact packs, which included your spoon and needed only the addition of a little cold water.

From the US we also had a vegan ‘breakfast sandwich’ – a burger bun (gluten free) filled with a soya burger and some soya-based scrambled egg… Well, it was certainly unusual!

While several of the entries – such as the gluten-free microwavable loaf that you can make in minutes – were attention catching, some of the other more interesting offerings required some knowledge of manufacturing processed to realise how far they had pushed the limits.

 A fresh, ready to roll gluten-free pastry which not only rolled but held together when cooked. (Anyone who has cooked gluten free pastry will know that ‘holding together’ is a seldom reached nirvana!) A gluten and dairy free puff pastry!  Given that gluten-filled wheat flour and butter are the bedrock of puff pastry even thinking of trying to create it without either, let alone both, is pretty adventurous.

And the same could be said, for the very same reasons, of the gluten and dairy free pain au chocolat which was not, as it happens, entered into the Innovation category, but into Breakfast Baked goods.  

Even less obvious to the uninitiated was a gluten and dairy-free lasagne. Gluten-free lasagnes have been around for a long time but they have always relied on a tasty cheddar cheese to conceal any shortcomings – thereby seriously frustrating the significant numbers of those who either are not bothered about gluten but need to avoid dairy products – or by the growing numbers of those who either have to, or choose to avoid both gluten and dairy.

But although not to everyone’s taste, one of the most innovative entries were the wheatgrass shots delivered direct to your door. As ‘Superfoodies’ will know, the vital thing about wheat grass is that you get it when it is absolutely fresh. This normally involves either growing and macerating it fresh for yourself – or heading for the nearest whole-foody shop who will do the job for you. But since those are a bit thin on the ground, having it delivered to your door, fresh as a daisy because it has been packed by a revolutionary new process (which I obviously cannot reveal…) is a very exciting development!

We look forward to 2016!

The winners of the awards will be announced and presented on 22nd April at an awards party at the Royal College of Physicians in London and Food Matters Live is delighted to be sponsoring the Innovation Award. 


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