Allergy and Free From Show 2016

allergy and free from show 2016
I’ve got mixed feelings about the Allergy & Free From Show this year.

We went down to the London show on Friday, when it was busy, but not hectic—we usually go at a weekend, when it is difficult to move around—and we thought it was great.

Coeliac Daughter looks forward to it every year, and enjoys finding new products and tasting a wide variety of different foods (though I couldn’t persuade her to try the cricket brownies). She particularly likes knowing that she could eat anything she wanted to try.

At least, that’s what we thought.

This year we particularly enjoyed:

  • gluten free pancakes (made on the spot by Goodens & Co)
  • the Gosh! Sweetcorn and quinoa bites (We’ve bought their mushroom and lentil burgers from Tesco, but not found the bites)
  • the B-Free pitta breads (which we can’t seem to find in the shops at all)
  • Carl the Caterpillar (one of Tesco’s gluten free birthday cakes) – Coeliac Daughter, now aged 20, thinks there should be a girl caterpillar too
  • and the Healthy Baker gave Coeliac Daughter a sample packet of oats, which she made into porridge the next day… I’m not sure she’s ever enjoyed porridge before, so that was a success.

It was also fun that Schar were cooking their pizzas to order—and yes, we shared a veggie gluten free pizza.

So a big thank you to the organisers of the Allergy Show, who work all year to make these events work.

But why am I feeling conflicted?

I think there are two things.

Co-location of shows

It wasn’t instantly clear which stalls had gluten free products, and which didn’t.

The organisers had done their best, with different coloured carpets, and hanging signage. But we were too focused on the stalls to look up, and it wasn’t clear to us from the outset that different carpets meant different shows, so we ended up in the veggie/vegan area (the Just V show) unknowingly.

There we spotted gluten free pancakes, and decided to come back later to try them. But by the time we were ready to eat pancakes, we’d realised that the carpets meant different things, and we struggled to find the gluten free pancake stall again. (Obviously we did eventually decide to look in the ‘wrong carpet’ area… and yes, they were in the vegan section).

I don’t think we were being particularly slow to pick up on this, as we saw others straying off their path too—vegans being surprised to find meat products, for instance.

This confusion could, potentially, lead to someone trying a product that wasn’t gluten free because they were under the impression that everything would be OK to eat. It was no longer true that Coeliac Daughter could try anything in the room.

The market is maturing

I know we’ve been to a lot of these Shows, so you’d expect us to be familiar with a lot of the companies in the marketplace, but it did seem to me that there were fewer new and exciting products for us to find out about.

And there was clearly a huge difference between the large, made-to-measure, expensive stands set up by the Big Guys (Schar, Genius, Tesco…) and the smaller stands. Of course there was: the Big Guys have a lot more money.

According to the Allergy Show sponsorship website, for instance, Doves Farm spent £25,000 to sponsor the cooking zone, and Tesco spent £15,000 to sponsor Speakers Corner.

I don’t know what Schar paid for the headline partnership, and for the show bag sponsorship, but we can calculate from the Allergy Show rate card that they spent around £33,600 for their stall space of 14m*8m (where they cooked pizza).

And that’s fine. The Allergy Show has to make money somehow, to pay for the space in Olympia. After all, we (and I’ll bet 99% of visitors to the show) downloaded free tickets, so they didn’t make any money from us.

And it is undeniably a fantastic—even unbeatable—opportunity to get your brand in front of your core target audience.

But I feel some concern that some of the smaller, newer companies may have been missing.

Yes, there was the Artisan Marketplace, with 15 stalls (minimum size 2m*1m, costing £700—very reasonable, really, for the potential marketing success available, assuming 30,000 visitors over the whole weekend), and that was great. And the Allergy Show can of course only host companies that apply to have a stall.

But something was missing. In every other year we’ve had one of those “oh wow, look, gluten free X!”, where X has been something that we’ve not been able to get gluten free before.

Not this year. Perhaps there just aren’t very many new and exciting products this year, or maybe we’ve had peak innovation already, and all that’ll happen now is consolidation.

I wonder if there is a way to get the innovative feel back, perhaps by creating an Innovation section for new products/ideas, whether from start-ups or from big companies—maybe a big company could be persuaded to sponsor the stalls within that section (they might even find a new and valuable idea in there).

What do you think? Did you go to the the London Allergy Show this year?

Cookery Classes: Gluten Free Bread and Gluten Free Pastry

Two new gluten free cookery classes, this time with Adriana Rabinovich!

She’s going to be hosting two gluten free cookery courses at Braxted Park at the end of September, one covering bread and the other pastry.

  • Gluten Free Bread: 23 September 2015

    An entire day devoted to the mystery of making your own gluten free bread. Adriana Rabinovich, an expert in gluten free baking, has designed this course to help you achieve fantastic results when making gluten free bread. This comprehensive hands on workshop will include demonstrations on making an everyday gluten free loaf with lots of tips and techniques to inspire you to make your own distinctive loaves at home. You will also make pizza, delicious flat breads, Mexican wraps and crispy breadsticks and a luxurious gluten free brioche. This course is suitable for all levels.

  • Gluten Free Pastry: 24 September 2015

    This new cookery course is a full day devoted to the art of gluten free pastry making. By the end of the day you will not only be making perfect gluten free short crust pastry every time, you will have expanded your gluten free pastry repertoire to include: choux pastry, pate sucree, chocolate pastry and hot water pastry. This course is suitable for all levels.

Each course costs £145, but they’re offering a 10% discount code when booking a place on either course. Use code GLUTEN10 at checkout to take advantage of this great offer.

I am seriously tempted. I’ve met Adriana a few times, and she truly is expert in gluten free baking (you can find out about her Cookbook for Kids book here). She was involved in Beyond Bread, too, and I have every confidence that these courses will be fab.

Pick of the Day: Allergy and Free From Show 2013


We’ve been back from the Allergy and Free From Show in London for a while now, and have had time to mull over the various things we learnt, new things we tasted, and food we liked enough to bring home.

Sometimes, it’s a little like coming back from holiday with some kind of local gourmet treat, and finding that it just isn’t as good out of context… In other cases, you know that you’ve found a real treat, and will go out to hunt down more.

Whereas last year, I’d say the theme was cupcakes, this year it was definitely back to basics, but with a twist: pasta (especially fresh), and wraps. My poor coeliac tried so much of both that we didn’t need to find lunch.

The pasta that we really liked came from:

  • Dell’Ugo. Not so much the fresh chickpea pasta—they’d sent me some of this to try in advance, and if you’re missing wholewheat-style pasta, this is the one for you—but the fresh penne and tagliatelle. We thought these were very good, and although they are fresh, they’ll last for 35 days in the fridge, apparently. We will be buying this.
  • Asda’s fresh gluten free pasta deserves a mention too; again, we’d been sent some to try in advance, and it was also good. Sadly, we don’t have an Asda near us, but if you do, you should try it. (Asda are launching 95 new gluten free lines this summer. 95! Go check them out…)
  • Then I must mention Feel Free’s ravioli. We’ve been wanting a decent ravioli for ages, and here it was! This is a frozen meal, with meat and ricotta inside the ravioli, and will be available in Budgens and Londis. We bought some to bring home…
  • and Celi Good’s pasta pronto range (this would be useful for camping/expeditions etc – we bought some of this too)

There were a range of different wraps/flatbreads available. It’s as though manufacturers have suddenly worked out how to do it, so they’re all giving it a try… We liked (and bought) the chapatti from Free From Authentic Foods. BFree were cooking breakfast wraps, which our coeliac enjoyed (these will be in Asda and Ocado, and are probably there now).

Other products that we liked enough to carry home from London:

  • Delidivine’s sausage rolls
  • Sin chocolate brownie
  • Conscious dairy and gluten free raw chocolate (mint)
  • Sensa Glutine pizza bases sold by Bruschetta (a gluten free restaurant in Kingston)
  • ilumi’s ready meals in pouches – ideal for trips away, expeditions etc.

There were lots of new products being launched. I’ve mentioned Asda; Warburton‘s told us they would have new products out by the end of June (we’ve already found brown and seeded wraps!); Sainsbury’s will have new products on the shelves in September, including a chocolate log and gingerbread men.

So which products would we buy again?

Actually, all of the ones we brought home. We picked well!

If you didn’t get to London, do go to Liverpool (get your free tickets here). It’s well worth it. An extraordinary event, packed with great products – and, well, just packed. 21,000 visitors in London over the three days! It just shows how much people want good quality free from products.

Tasting Gluten Free Bread

Have you ever wondered how foods get from idea to plate?

I have, so I’m always interested in finding out how companies go about product development.

Recently, I was invited to join a Dr Schär tasting panel, at an agricultural college in rural Cheshire. (Dr Schär is the company behind several brands. In the UK, these are: DS-gluten free, Glutafin and TRUfree).

The idea was to help them in their product development process. Dr Schär are interested in looking at two things:

  • international differences. Dr Schär sell products in several different countries, including Italy, Germany, US and UK, and people in each of those countries have different preferences for the taste of their bread.
  • validating their internal tasting panels. Naturally, Dr Schär have internal tasting teams, but it is important to check every so often that the internal team understand, and agree with, what the customer wants. It’s easy to see how the internal teams might get ‘acclimatised’ to the taste of their own products…

So they’d invited coeliacs to bring along a ‘mainstream’ friend or family member, so that Dr Schär could see how the various products went down in comparison to mainstream bread.

Dr Schaer are running multiple panels, in a variety of different places, and at different times, but at the one I went to it was noticeable that:

  • I was among the youngest (and I’m over 50)
  • 14 out of the 15 coeliacs on the panel were female

We may or may not have been a representative group; it was an afternoon session, so younger or middle-aged people would have been at school, as my daughter was, or at work.

We were split into 2 groups, one coeliac and one mainstream, with 15 people in each. We tasted 6 different white gluten free breads, and 7 different brown or seeded gluten free breads. The ‘mainstream’ group had a variety of standard bread to taste as well as the gluten free breads.

It was a double-blind test, so I can’t tell you which brands we were tasting, but being able to compare the breads directly was interesting. Because of expense, naturally, it is unlikely that coeliacs would get such an opportunity very often. It would be extremely interesting to know which brands I preferred!

The breads did vary enormously in all aspects, from smell to texture, and one of the questions asked was quite revealing.

For each of the top-ranked and bottom-ranked breads, what was the main reason for its position on the list: appearance, smell, taste, or texture?

Before doing the test, I’d have thought that for me the taste would be the most important. But it turns out that – for me – texture (or mouth-feel) is the most significant element in rating the bread. No doubt, for other participants, other factors, such as smell, might have been more significant.

I wish I’d been able to take my daughter, as I could have found out what she thought too, and perhaps identified a brand of bread she’d prefer to our current favourites.

What do you look for in a gluten free bread?

It’s The Little Things: Allergy & Free From Show 2012

Are you going to London for the Allergy & Free From Show 2012? It’s less than a fortnight away now, but if you don’t have a ticket yet, you can still get a free ticket here.

We’ll be there.

We went last year, and it was great. Exhausting, because it is such a big event, but really enjoyable. We talked to very many different manufacturers, and learnt a lot about new products and services. I just love to see the range of products available to us constantly increasing… and I am delighted by the choice now available!

But the best bit, for me, was when we took a break for lunch in the cafe, which was selling only gluten-free products. That was excellent in itself (and they were pre-packaged, so no risk of cross-contamination). But there was more…

We sat down to eat, and I tucked in to my gluten free houmous and red pepper sandwich, without realising that my teenage daughter didn’t know how to open the triangular box to get at hers. Because she’d never, ever, eaten a sandwich that had been wrapped up and made available for sale before.

I’ll write that again: she’d never eaten a bought gluten free sandwich before. Obviously she’s eaten gluten free sandwiches all her life, but a year ago, we’d never seen one available for sale, still less one wrapped up in a triangular display box.

Such a little thing—a tiny thing—but it shows just how different her experience of life has been from that of most of her peers.

And she was thrilled. Here it is, a year later, and it still comes up in conversation occasionally. The time she had a sandwich like everybody else. And every single time I think about it, I feel a little weepy.

Thanks to Fresh! for that experience. And we’re heading back down to London next week for another visit to the Allergy and Free From Show for more excitement. There’ll be a lot going on, including:

  • try and buy – shopping for new products
  • free seminars
  • consultant dieticians
  • free-from cooking classes from Sainsburys
  • demonstrations
  • parent workshops
  • masterclasses for health professionals.

Will you be there? Or maybe you’d prefer Liverpool, in October? Either way, you can get your free tickets here.

Do come! There might even be sandwiches again…