genius chicken pie

Mystery of the Missing Gluten Free Pies

If you are Tesco (or Sainsbury’s), you have a lot of information about me.

You know what I buy and how often. You know where I shop.

You know when I’m thinking of leaving to shop elsewhere.

These consumer databases are very clever indeed, and are designed to keep me coming back by offering me targeted vouchers at checkout, and in the post. And I don’t have a problem with that; I know how the system works.

So I was pleased to be given a voucher by Tesco at checkout, for the new Genius frozen pies. These are a new product – and I couldn’t make it to the launch lunch because of work (sorry, Genius!) – so I thought ‘Yay! We’ll try these!”

So I looked for the products on my next trip. And on the next.

After the third visit, with no products to be found, I thought I’d ask at customer service. As expected: nil result. My local store doesn’t stock those goods.

So why give me the voucher? This voucher was specifically given to me at that store because I buy (some of) their Free From products.

Customer service at the store was, as always, very helpful, and suggested I phone central customer services to raise a complaint.

So I did.

Again, very helpful: no, that store doesn’t stock that product, but the one in the next town does. It stocks the Genius steak pie, the chicken and mushroom pie, and the frozen pastry.

Guess what..?

No prizes: I drove to the other town, scoured the freezers, only to find… no product.

Again, I asked at customer service, and they spent some time going through their arcane computer system to look for the product. It takes a while, because products aren’t always listed where you’d expect, apparently, and there is no Free From section on the computer. But the answer is as expected. No: they don’t stock it; had never heard of it; weren’t expecting to stock it.

So why did central customer services send me there?

The PR company for Genius tell me that the new Genius product ranges will only be stocked in Tesco until November, when they will then be listed with ASDA, and should be stocked across a wide range of outlets.

Hmm. Not much commitment to Free From or to Genius products from Tesco then. I’m frustrated by this; I expect Genius are too.

The voucher was only worth 50p. But the disappointment, and the time spent trying to find the product, tarnishes the Tesco brand for me. Targeted vouchers are all very well, but they do need to be able to meet the expectations raised by them.

Have any of you managed to find the Genius pies yet? What are they like?

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Lucy is the mother of a coeliac, and has been managing a gluten free diet for her daughter for 20 years - though, to be fair, she does do most of it herself now...

16 thoughts on “Mystery of the Missing Gluten Free Pies”

  1. I’ve had the chicken and mushroom and was not impressed by the quality of the ingredients. Also, be advised that if you are super sensitive to gluten don’t try these. They contain 5ppm or less but still affected me very badly.

  2. Gallions Reach Tesco, London. They had all the new range, but I wouldn’t recommend them. The filling was a disgrace.

  3. Interesting… I wouldn’t know (since I don’t eat meat) and my daughter wouldn’t know (since she hasn’t ever had a bought meat pie, having been GF since she was a toddler) what a meat pie should taste like!

    We need taste-testers who can compare the taste to ‘normal’ meat pies…

    Nice blog, Lee: I’m outraged to learn about the Damian Cardone Facebook saga!

  4. Thanks Lucy. I’m not into shop bought pies but the temptation of being able to eat one that was gluten free and without the hassle of making it from scratch was overwhelming. Sorry I did though, I got glutened and was ill for over 3 weeks. Thought it may have been food poisioning to begin with but after talking with Genius I found out that I’d been glutened for sure.

    Wish I had more time to devote to the blog but as it isn’t my money site I just don’t get the time. Ah the Damian Cordone saga, that was an interesting series of events! I’m following you on Twitter btw. Nice meeting you :)

  5. I’m really glad I’ve read the comments, so I won’t bother trying to look for them, though I had tried our two local Tesco shops with no luck. I think it’s pretty poor to describe something as GF if it’s not. I wonder how many people have been caught out.

    As another aside – have other people had problems with Green and Black’s chocolate. I’ve had it twice and been ill twice, so I don’t think it’s a coincidence. It just says ‘may contain traces of cereal’ on the label.

  6. Forgot to tick the notify me of followup comments box, so that’s why I’ve added another comment.

  7. I’ve only learnt this recently, that gluten free products does not mean gluten free. Stupid I know. The organisation that makes up the rules about food labelling allows companies to have up to 20 ppm (parts per million) of gluten in so called gluten free products. So if you’re really sensitive like I am, you’re going to get a reaction.

    Problem is, when you’re eating a gluten free product, without this information you could put the symptoms down to something else because why would you even consider you’ve been glutened by a gluten free product?

    I suspect that many people have had problems but put it down to something else other than gluten.

    As for Green and Blacks, I personally wouldn’t touch anything that says may contain… It’s just not worth the risk long term.

  8. My little boy had one of the Genius pies and really, really enjoyed it, probably because having always been gluten free he hasn’t much to compare to… BUT in the past week he has suffered what I would consider minor reaction symptoms, and I have been trying to identify the cause… perhaps I’ve found the answer…

  9. Hi Lee

    The labelling issue is an interesting one. The level for GF used to be higher, so the 20ppm means there is potentially less gluten in ‘gluten free’ products now than there use to be. But if you’re sensitive at that level, then even 20ppm is too much.

    And there’s going to be a ‘low-gluten’ category too: 21ppm to 100ppm.

    Alison – sorry to hear your son has been unwell. Perhaps, like Lee, he is indeed reacting to the traces of gluten. That’s a shame, if he really enjoyed the pie! How are your baking skills? (I’ve not tried pie-making…)

  10. Amanda: I’ve tried to contact Green & Black’s about the gluten free status of some of their chocolate in the past, and not had a response from them. However, we’ve not had any problem after eating it! ‘May contain’ is a bit of a gamble…

  11. I bought some Green & Black’s today thinking they were gluten free – completely missing the ‘may contain cereals’. As newly diagnosed NonCoeliac Gluten Sensitive I was looking at ingredients list and looking for ‘may contain gluten’. Anyway, I knew as soon as I ate it I had been glutened – and looked up their website, and found this one. Am a bit annoyed with myself as have been doing pretty well so far, but now have a stonking headache and the rest! That’ll teach me for eating chocolate!

  12. Oh dear, Janey… but it’s not punishment for eating chocolate! There are brands of chocolate that are safe to eat – no need to give it up completely!

    There are even varieties of Green & Black’s that are in the Coeliac UK Food and Drink directory, so those should be OK. I hope you can find chocolate you like. If you don’t have a copy of the Coeliac UK directory, then you can always try contacting the manufacturer.

    Don’t forget that recipes change over time (New! Improved! – not always an improvement) so you do need to check again sometimes.

  13. I just came across this interesting thread. My dietician told me recently that she would not recommend Genius products to her patients. And it’s NOT because low levels of gluten can be detected (it’s actually impossible to measure zero ppm gluten and the reason 20ppm gluten has been set as the safe limit has been decided from research by coeliac experts from all over the world) My dietician said that the reason why Genius is so bad for you is the HIGH FAT content!!!!! The super high fat content in all their products (including the breads which contain more than 3 times the fat of normal bread) is what’s making so many coeliacs ill, and if you eat a lot of high fat low fibre foods you are more likley to develop IBS. My dietician told me to switch from Genius to lower fat higher fibre alternatives! This may not be the best advice for all coeliacs but well worth keeping in mind to always reading the nutritional content and keeping away from fatty foods.

  14. Green and Black’s are NOT safe. I spoke to them today about their misleading information on their website and they confirmed that their products are manufactured in an environment where cereals are processed and cross contamination is possible. I’m contacting Coeliac UK as well. Where will I get gf cocoa, *sigh*.

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