Judging begins with an assessment period, during which entries are assessed to ensure that they meet the relevant criteria and rules of entry. Our Blind Judging process takes place over a three week period, usually in September.  Judging is completed by panels of judges that comprise of industry specialists, food writers, food bloggers and consumers of FreeFrom products.

Judges will make their evaluation based on quality, flavour, aroma, texture, ingredients, price, technical aspect and importantly – FreeFrom declarations. Judging is ‘blind’, i.e., judges are NOT informed of the name of the manufacturer/producer of any product until an initial decision is made regarding the winners of the category. Judges are supplied with information regarding each product and this includes ingredients list, FreeFrom list, preparation instructions etc.

Following the initial decision the packaging will be revealed to the judging panel. The packaging will be re-examined to ensure the product meets the various criteria (e.g. FreeFrom declarations), following which the winning products will be awarded a Gold, Silver, Bronze, Merit and/or Innovation Award.

Gold Award winners will be automatically entered and assessed for the ‘Product of the Year Award’. All product ranges will be considered for our ‘Product Range of The Year Award’. Retailers are entered into ‘Retailer of The Year’. We also have a Special Judges Award for products that stand out to judges, as well as Innovation awards, for those that raise the bar and bring something different to the freefrom marketplace. We also have our FreeFrom Champion Award, sponsored by Juvela, which is presented to someone who has gone above and beyond to support or champion or improve the world of freefrom. 

2021 heralded our ‘Lisa Acton Small Producer of The Year Award‘ for the first time, in memory of our late director, Lisa Acton.

Our Judges debate in detail and with great passion and we insist that no award is easily won.

Maria McHale

Maria is an award-winning blogger, journalist and communications consultant and writes mainly about health. She runs a communications consultancy –  www.mariamchale.com – where she helps entrepreneurs get noticed, build a loyal audience and grow their profits. Maria has been coeliac for several years and has judged with the FreeFrom Food Awards (Ireland) from the beginning, being our first Irish Panel Chair.

Tina Thompson

Tina was diagnosed with coeliac disease over fifteen years ago and as a result established the website www.glutenfreeireland.com with husband Derek, and son Mike. The Gluten Free Ireland website helps to provide information, raise awareness and ensure that coeliacs can find places to eat or stay around Ireland. Tina and Derek also run events to help coeliacs access good quality gluten free products. They give talks from time to time and advocate on behalf of coeliacs. They can be contacted by email here: derek@glutenfreeireland.com

Derek Thompson

Derek with wife, Tina and son Mike, run www.glutenfreeireland.com, which they established when Tina was diagnosed Coeliac over fifteen years ago. Supported by social media and regular emails to subscribers, the website provides information on where Coeliacs can eat out safely anywhere on the Island of Ireland. It also provides a platform for gluten free food producers to market products directly to the GF community. They run very popular Gluten Free food fairs across Northern Ireland and help to raise awareness on coeliac disease by engaging with the media. Contact derek@glutenfreeireland.com

Jo Ann Cadogan

Jo Ann is a Nurse, N.U.I Health Promotion Graduate, Coeliac and Coeliac advocate. Jo Ann enjoys cooking and baking and is always enthusiastic about trying all the amazing and innovative new FreeFrom products available. Jo Ann joined the FreeFrom Food Awards (Ireland) Judging panel in 2016.

Alex Gazzola

Alex is a UK-based freelance writer, editor, author and writing tutor who has been writing professionally since 1996. Alex specializes in food allergy and intolerance, coeliac disease, gut health, freefrom food, IBS and digestive disorders. He has written several books including “Coeliac Disease: what you need to know” – and journalism for The Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Irish Times, Reader’s Digest and other publications. Alex is a member of the National Union of Journalists, the Guild of Health Writers and the Society of Authors. Alex is a long time judge of the FreeFrom Food Awards (UK), The FreeFrom Eating Out Awards and was appointed as a Panel Chair to the FreeFrom Food Awards (Ireland) in 2016. He’s @FreeFromWriter on twitter.

Anthea Parkes

Anthea is currently a 4th year BFA performing arts student at American College Dublin. She is a writer, painter and avid foodie. Anthea was diagnosed with coeliac disease in 2006. She has judged with us every year since 2016. 

Laura Kenny

Laura runs her social media business and is mum to 2 boys, both of whom have cow’s milk protein allergy. She is the author of dairy free kids – a blog about being a parent of children with food allergies. She began the blog to share ideas, product information and recipes with other parents children on a dairy free diet.

Sinead O’Dowd

Sinead O’Dowd holds a first class honours degree in Nutritional Sciences from UCC and has 17 years’ experience both in the pharmaceutical industry and the beverage industry as a Quality Control Chemist and Microbiology Chemist. Sinead was diagnosed with coeliac disease in 2013 and also suffers from IBS, so follows a strict Gluten Free and Low FODMAP diet. Sinead has many coeliac followers on Instagram as @mrs_gluten_free_fashionista. Sinead worked behind the scenes in FFFAI in 2020, as well as judging in the FFFA UK awards. Sinead has recently begun working again in quality control and continues to judge and be involved with the FFFAI.

Suzanne Clarke

Suzanne was diagnosed coeliac over four decades ago and in the last two years has adopted a vegan diet. Over the years, she has worked as a volunteer with the Coeliac Society, running a support group and events for coeliacs living in her area. Suzanne runs her own Personal Training business, SC Home Fitness, catering to clients that want to workout in their own homes. She was one of the experts in the Coeliac Society’s Minding Me programme last in 2021.

Kim Mullahey

Kim, who is coeliac about 15 years now, writes a successful food review column for print media as well as a high end website pynck, as a food writer. Being part of the FreeFrom Food Awards (Ireland) panel has been the very reason that the column has been so well received, and for the invitation to contribute to pynck.com.

Aileen Markey

Aileen Markey is the owner of Unglu-d, a dedicated online shopping experience for those with Coeliac Disease and Gluten Intolerance. As a coeliac, Aileen knows the challenges of sticking to a gluten-free diet; she set up the business in 2017 following her diagnosis in 2015. Aileen joined the board of the Coeliac Society of Ireland in September 2017 and held the position of Chairperson until recently. She has developed a range of the Unglu-d brand of GF products available online. 

Helen Jones

Helen has been Coeliac since she was a year old and grew up cooking and baking gluten free to make sure she never missed out on any ‘glutenous’ goodies her friends had. This led her into a career as a chef but since taking part in the FreeFrom Food Awards 2018’s judging process, she has begun working for a large allergen free bakery company helping to develop new exciting products for everyone to enjoy.

Laura Connor

Laura works as a Special Needs Assistant in a Dublin secondary school, working with kids with varying requirements, such as ADHD and Autism. She has a huge interest in gluten free foods as many of the children she works with have varying dietary restrictions as a result of their conditions. Laura has vegan and gluten free family members and has a keen interest in what products are available as she enjoys catering for these dietary needs.

Russell Bailey

Russell moved to Ireland in 1995 and was MD of Milano restaurants, overseeing the opening of their first nine branches before venturing out on his own. Russell now owns La Bucca, which was founded in 2004 and operates restaurants in Ashbourne, Ratoath & Dunboyne as well as operating a pizza dough factory, all in County Meath. He has been wheat intolerant since 1999 and therefore has a keen interest in FreeFrom food which is a feature throughout his restaurants.

Shane Smith

Shane is the publisher of YesChef Magazine in Ireland and Scotland and the founder and chairperson of the Yes Chef Awards. A self-taught cook, Shane has appeared on RTE’s ‘The Restaurant’ and is a former Northern Ireland winner of ‘Britain’s Best Dish’. Shane is also an avid photographer. Shane joined the judging panel of the FreeFrom Food Awards (Ireland) in 2016.

Vicky Owens

Having been diagnosed with Coeliac in 2007 Vicky had a good cry and then set about adapting to life gluten free. Learning to cook and bake gluten free has been an interesting challenge over the last few years. An even bigger challenge has been finding restaurants that will cater for Coeliacs. Originally from Cork, Vicky loves living in Dublin although she does believe that nothing in the capital can compete with the coastline and countryside of her home county. Well except for the restaurants, cinemas, bars, food markets of every ethnicity and the possibility of buying groceries 24 hours a day… although she has heard a rumour that there is now a 24-hour supermarket in Cork.

Donna Breen

Donna started her blog ‘Gluten Free Cailin’ in 2012 after being diagnosed as a coeliac in her mid twenties. Donna shares gluten free tips, recipes and product information for other coeliacs both here and on social media through her facebook, twitter and instagram accounts. Donna has also contributed to the Coeliac Society of Ireland newsletters and Easy Gluten Free magazine. Donna lives in Dublin with her husband and young son. (Twitter: @gfcailin).

Aoife Luykx

Aoife Luykx is a food blogger and specializes in wheat-free living. She was diagnosed with a wheat intolerance 12 years ago and subsequently followed a wheat-free diet. She struggled to find resources and product reviews and hence started her blog. Aoife is always on the lookout for good, nutritious wheat-free products with the odd treat thrown in. Being a mum of 2, Aoife also enjoys cooking and experimenting with new recipes and likes to cook healthy family meals, her blog is at wheatfreelivingblog.com

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Suzanne Redmond

Suzi is very passionate about food, wine, whiskey and beer, not forgetting a love of travel. Suzi has been on many judging panels, such as Great Taste Awards, Irish Quality Food Awards, Independent Bottlers Challenge, Malt Whisky Year Book 2017 as well as the Irish Whiskey Awards. She has been a part of the drinks industry for a little over 10 years. Suzi is WSET level 4 qualified and regularly host tastings and staff training in these sectors. In the last few years she has moved into writing about all things food, drink and travel related at https://suzisgrapecrush.wordpress.com/