"Most interesting was the move from staples, such as bread, pasta, cakes and breakfast cereals, to ready meals and convenience products," said Berriedale-Johnson. "In previous years we struggled to get 10 entries for these. This year we had more than 50."
Interest in that area has risen so much that she plans to split the category in two in 2013, with one platform for meat-based products and one for other foods. She is also looking at introducing a children's category for the awards.
Vegusto mild aromatic dairy free cheese was the overall winner of the 2012 awards, which were presented by celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson last month. "For years dairy free and vegan manufacturers have struggled to make a really tasty cheese substitute," said Berriedale-Johnson. "But they have never been able to crack it. Which makes Vegusto's achievement so exciting."
Manufacturers and retailers were beginning to see potential in marketing mainstream naturally free-from products as free-from foods, she said. "There are a lot of one-pot meals, for example, that are already de-facto free-from products."
Entries this year had included a variety of convenience foods, from quiches to pies and pastas, she said. There was also strong growth in raw free-from food entries.