The simple thinking behind Nourish was to create an award that proudly prioritises nutritional worth and the quality of a product’s ingredient deck over simply taste or any ‘beauty pageant’ branding. Awards after all provide the perfect level playing field where cash-strapped underdog brands can go toe-to-toe with their big brother peers and still come out on top.
In today’s healthier living climate, a meticulous awards programme that recognises, promotes and supports such pioneering propositions over their mainstream peers was long overdue.
The driving force behind Nourish is Diana Babics a qualified nutritionist and bona-fide foodie who later this year heads to Vancouver to help launch and judge Canada’s inaugural Nourish awards initiative. ‘I saw that healthier living movement was growing at pace and that no award was truly celebrating this momentous change in direction,’ stresses Diana. ‘The team quickly recognised that what constitutes ‘healthy’ will always be a moving feast that has to be constantly monitored and reassessed. For example, in the early days we insisted that all entries were free from gluten, refined sugar and dairy but these days the goalposts have moved to reflect changing norms, so we now prioritise natural, genuinely innovative products devoid of synthetic nasties.’
When asked if she suspected that the Nourish team was onto something special, Diana is very clear that whilst she knew she’d tapped into something important, the speed with which the Nourish movement has gathered speed (especially post Lockdown) took even her by surprise. ‘As has been well documented, Lockdown was a period of unparalleled innovation, where new, well-informed priorities came bustling to the fore. Vocal commitments to better eating and healthy convictions could be heard throughout the food & drink fraternity as growing numbers of consumers reassessed their daily dietary regimes. This was a green light moment where many would-be entrepreneurs decided that now was perfect moment to leave their bland, predictable careers and embark on those entrepreneurial adventures they’d long craved. Elsewhere, even the most stoic, set-in-their-ways food and drink producers realised that the world had moved on making it imperative to respond in kind.’
Out of the blue, Nourish entries started climbing spectacularly, although it wasn’t all good news. Suddenly Diana and her inner team were having to track down increasingly knowledgeable judges, whilst hiring a bigger venue that met COVID’s strict and inflexible goals and started the ball rolling for remote judging.
In recent times Nourish has grown to include further pivotal sub-categories including only this year ketogenic and supplements; having launched a bespoke kids’ award and ‘vegan leaning’ initiative earlier. ‘Naturally its vital that any entries are judged against similar-minded peers, however with all the extra-ordinary proliferation, Nourish has enjoyed in recent years, we were rapidly reaching the point where our lead categories were been flooded with products with truly diverse motives and priorities. Finally, we can now look at specific niches with greater clarity. For example, the goals of a vegan snack are simply not compatible with the primary motives of protein snack bar or even a keto bar. Similarly, different products require different specialist judges, with vegan awards needing to be assessed by vegans whilst qualified nutritionists looking at supplements.
Nourish were especially fortunate in their early days to have Deborah Meaden of Dragon’s Den fame and Naomi Devlin of River Cottage join the fray for one year, adding an extra smidgeon of stardust and gravitas to proceedings. ‘Today, we’re very proud to have played a small yet instrumental role in the evolution and growth of brands as amazingly diverse as Hunter & Gather, The Turmeric Co, Nibble Protein, Be 100% and Kooky.’
With regards new emerging trends, Diana tips her hat to CBD, digestive health, low carb but especially medicinal mushrooms, or as, they’re commonly referred to as shrooms. Trumpeted for tackling brain fog, fatigue, anxiety and menopause, shrooms are lauded, not only for their ‘broad church’ appeal but their surprisingly affordable price points.
Asked for her views on current supermarket buying strategy, Diana is very appreciative of the fact that supermarkets not only have to focus their attention on ranges with far-reaching appeal but products that make sufficient margins and volumes to meet & exceed their profit goals. ‘Of course it would be great to have a credible, healthy alternative within every food cluster to ensure real choice, maybe a bespoke section for proven Nourish award winners.’
It’s also worth noting that these bustling awards have grown organically, free from outside investor support that may have inadvertently led to deviating agendas. ‘That’s not to say we haven’t aligned ourselves and collaborated with like-minded organisations and individuals who have helped shape our constantly evolving organisation. I remember years ago that for the first time in human history that that our children are predicted to live shorter lives than their parents. This has been a memorable call of arms to many people like myself who want to help shape the wider health of the nation and if nothing else convince consumers to look a little closer at the back-of-pack ingredient decks.’