Interview with Diana Babics, founder of the Nourish Awards

Find out what inspired Diana Babics to launch the Nourish Awards, a prestigious award program for food, beverage and supplement products, established in 2018 to recognise healthy options and alternatives.

What are the Nourish Awards?

Launched back in 2017, the Nourish Awards recognised a growing appetite for healthier living and clean decks food offerings. At the heart of this forward-thinking brand is an unflinching commitment to recognise, promote and support those pioneering brands that create and champion ‘healthy alternative’ food and drink heroes.

Historically, too many brand awards focused exclusively on taste and texture, brand identity, packaging and the top line vision of their larger-than-life founder(s). It frustrated me that many healthy food brands didn’t OR couldn’t come out on top in traditional taste-centric celebrations.

Some awards simply judge awards on paper, which I found incredulous as every product has to be consumed to be truly appreciated! 

Why is there a need for an award that hones in on ingredient decks and nutritional integrity?

The simple reality is that functional foods and healthier alternatives often taste different to ‘everyday’ offerings. The thriving market that consumes these products certainly understands this reality, albeit the wider foodie media and all-important buyers sometimes need reminding. 

Clearly definitions of what constitutes healthy is a ‘moving feast’ depending on latest findings, evolving trends and breathtaking innovation. In the ‘early days’ we asked all entrants to be free from gluten, dairy and refined sugar. Today our horizons have broadened and we only insist that any healthy alternatives are natural, genuinely innovative and devoid of any synthetic additives and ‘nasties.’ 

Where did the idea come from? 

As someone with a food and drinks background, this was a recurring thought that had been swirling around my head for years. The watershed moment came when I had to put my career on hold to nurse a very poorly toddler. Time away from work, coupled with quality ‘thinking time’ to fine-tune my thinking. Slowly my son got better, I put my pen to paper and the inaugural awards were launched three months later!

Were you a lockdown loser or beneficiary?

Definitely a beneficiary. Lockdown was a time of unparalleled innovation with new ideas and thinking coming to the fore. This was a time when growing numbers of consumers were reassessing their eating habits and healthy convictions.

Many would-be entrepreneurs decided that this was the perfect moment to leave beige careers and launch the alternative foodie career they’d always craved, whilst incumbent food and drink producers realised that the marketplace was receptive to new thinking so extended their portfolio. 2020 wasn’t easy, we had to collate judges, hire a huge venue to meet inflexible COVID rules and set the ball rolling for remote judging.

This was also the year we launched our Nourish Kids awards because health-conscious parents the eating and drinking habits of their kids had come increasingly into focus.

Why has the Nourish Awards proliferated in recent times?

With our latest awards involving four times more participants than our inaugural range it became clear that products were in participating in increasing eclectic categories. Increasingly standalone                          sub-categories like supplements, ketogenic and vegan became too vibrant to be ignored.

What are the new food and drink trends making you sit up and take notice?

Brands like Trip have placed CBD on an altogether more everyday footing, vegan continues to seize headlines, gut health/improved digestion is one of the hottest trends of the moment, keto continues to build a following and medicinal mushrooms are starting to make their move!     

What’s your career background?

My career began in finance (accounts and auditing) although I had a late calling to embrace university, beginning in art and design before moving into interior architecture. In 2010 I set up my marketing and design agency and in 2013 I launched the award-winning, gluten-free hub which quickly evolved into the largest free-from fraternity for people who were coeliac or gluten-free (as I was).

What are your proudest moments to date?

I’d like to think we’ve played a small but meaningful role in the evolution of pioneering brands like Hunter & Gather, Nibble Protein, Fermenti, Be 100%, Kooky, Junius and the Turmeric Co.

What’s the worst decision you have made?

For all the right reasons we saw an opportunity to launch a product-based award to showcase a number of our most inspirational winners. The vision was short-lived because topics like perishability came into play

What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Creating a great product is never enough, it needs to be backed up by a sound business acumen, fantastic time management, access to resources and a flexible plan because the world doesn’t travel in straight lines.

Find out more about the Nourish Awards.