Allergy Show 2013: B’s Picks

Really hope the wrappers are GF too ;)

Really hope the wrappers are GF too ;)

Well, what a whirlwind! The much-anticipated Allergy Show was obviously much-anticipated by more people than ever before. There must have been double the amount of stalls this year compared to last, and definitely more than double the amount of attendees, as anyone who visiting on the Saturday can attest! Getting to stalls and chatting to business owners was challenging among the hoards of people.

Aside from the logistical challenges presented from so many people (lots of unspent coeliac pounds!), this is testament to the thriving and growing free-from sector. I smiled knowingly as I heard other people in the queue discussing the ins and outs of their digestive tracts, and was delighted inside to find a whole host of new startups and products to try – everything from small independent companies doing their best day’s business ever, through to large mainstream brands taking their first foray into the gluten free market, as well as interesting international companies trying to break into the UK market.

B’s Picks

Proper Pudding! Glamour Puds.

Proper Pudding! Glamour Puds.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to see everything I had hoped, but I tried to seeking out new things to try (as well as restocking a few old favourites). I was particularly keen to try some of the Free From Food Award winners who were proudly displaying their yellow badges. Here are my favourites from my haul:

Frank Bars are the latest of a few quick and easy snacks that aren’t entirely bad for you! In fact whilst these taste as indulgent as chocolate bars, they are mostly made from fruit and gluten free oats, and are pretty low calorie. You can currently buy them in Planet Organic and online. Visitors to the show can get £7 off a box using the code AFFS100419.

Glamour Puds were shortlisted for the FFFA. Beneath this mother and daughter’s tiny stall were hidden little pots of proper British style puddings like the pear and ginger steamed sponge I took home. Currently available at Whole Foods Market.

Favourite breakfast ever

Favourite breakfast ever

US import, Venice Bakery were mobbed all weekend. I was sceptical – there’s just so much pizza on the market already! But these are probably the best bases out there – thin, crispy and a nice flavour; and are also vegan and soy free. I particularly liked the mini bases – perfect for children, smaller appetites or lunch treats. Currently these are only available online, but I really hope restaurants pick up on them – they are much nicer than the Pizza Express, Dominoes and Pizza Hut offerings (in my opinion).

B Free put in a big presence for a UK newcomer – with a chef cooking up all kinds of treats with their new wraps. I particularly like them because they are quite low-calorie compared with lots of GF bread products. See how they shape up against the Warburton’s wraps here. Soon to be available in Asda.

Long term favourites of the blog, Perk!er were rushed off their feet all day. I’m totally biased towards this company after winning a bag of treats at their stall! I was very excited to hear they have some new breakfast products in the pipeline, and to pick up some of their fresh bread. Porridges are available nationwide in Tesco and Planet Organic, other products available in Whole Foods Market.

Notably absent

I took my Ocado bag with me. They should totally sponsor the show bag next year!

I took my Ocado bag with me. They should totally sponsor the show bag next year!

I didn’t see prescription stalwarts Juvela anywhere at the show. I’m a little concerned about the health of their brand with the recent withdrawl of their consumer range. Spying on the Glutafin stand may give a clue why – with lots of attendees confused or unaware that they were prescription-only. Perhaps a sign that the undiagnosed, lifestyle or NCGS markets are now dwarfing the coeliacs in the gluten free market…

…that would certainly explain Genius’ show presence. They weren’t absent, in fact they were in yer face with toast at the door with new branding a very funky campervan and picnic setup that they will be taking to several festivals this year. A clear sign that the lifestyle/mainstream market is where their focus is these days. What was notably absent was the wide selection of products they had last year – now the range comprises only breads and pancakes- pittas, pastries and frozen goods have all vanished without trace. It will be interesting to see their next move having made some significant investments this year.

Coeliac favourites Ocado didn’t have a stand this year, but I would speculate that with so many of their new producers present sporting Ocado signs, that this was a calculated decision. It’s great to see them bringing smaller and different GF companies to the national market with hints that Knead, La Veneziane and others will be stocked in the near future.

What would I like to see next year?

Forget the logistics of the show (though longer opening and crowd control would be nice), these are more my predictions/hopes for this barometer of the gluten free market – where do I hope we will be in a year’s time?

  • More mainstream brands – I think we can hope/expect to see more companies following Warburtons and Heinz getting (cashing?!) in on the gluten free market. More choice for us, yay!
  • Restaurants – with some already cottoning on to the growing need to cater to allergies, the new labelling legislation should provide the impetus for restaurants to participate with pop up cafes showing us how well they can cater for our needs!
  • A ‘trade’ show – for small businesses, consumer demand is only one part of the puzzle in moving from a home business to a national brand. It would be great if this was a formalised opportunity for buyers from large supermarkets to meet and sample the best of the free from industry to give a break to some of the smaller companies.
  • Inclusivity – I’m lucky to only have one allergen I need to avoid. For those with multiple, vigilance was still important when visiting stands. Venice Bakery was perhaps so busy because it was free from most allergens – a sign that more brands will likely need to move to maximise their appeal. A few parents I have spoken to also hoped that there would be a greater focus on catering for children next year.
  • A greater health focus – we’ve just got to get those calorie and fat counts in gluten free products down! B Free are leading the way, but I suffered a major sugar and carb overload in my few short hours at the show. Let’s see more savoury, healthy options for coeliacs next year please!

Until next year (or Liverpool)! What were your highlights, and what do you hope to see at the next show?

11 responses to “Allergy Show 2013: B’s Picks

  1. I desperately tried to get to the Glamour Puds stand but it was mobbed every day and when I finally got there, there were no samples. Sad times :(

    One thing I did find interesting/slightly annoying is how there was a veggie/vegan showcase going on alongside. So a lot of the stands had signs up saying “we are NOT gluten/wheat free”, which seemed a little passive aggressive as there were no signs up elsewhere saying “we are NOT egg free” or something like that. Plus the stand I was helping at (Isabel’s) had a lot of vegans coming up to us and making yucky faces at us when they were told the product was not vegan. Seriously, go take your moralising elsewhere please! I had one guy trying to explain the religious significance of eggs and why he believes they are little chicken souls (this was during a busy period!) … I felt like singing “Every Sperm is Sacred” at him! It was sad as of course there are some wonderful vegans, but there was definitely an aggressively minority out in full force.

    Re: size, the show I think has really reached its limit. Extending the hours just wouldn’t work – for the smaller producers standing up & talking all day for 3 days is a killer when you don’t have enough people to do shifts. They need to either limit tickets or sell tickets for specific time slots next year. It was crazy busy and the aisles were too narrow for people in wheelchairs etc to get through a lot of the time. And geez, there were a lot of buggies too.

    A large portion of the hall was taken up by asthma/skin allergy stands and Free From skincare and I wonder whether it might be better to split the show into two: foods vs healthcare.

    Anyway, this is now turning into a bit of a blog post but I enjoyed reading yours!


  2. I really enjoyed reading this, Carly. You’ve certainly whet my appetite for the Liverpool show in the autumn! It will be interesting to see if that show grows in the same way the London one has. Last year was the first time the organisers brought the show up North and reported that it had been a great success. Roll on October, I say! :)

  3. Thanks for a great review ,couldn’t make it this year but if it was as busy as you say sort glad I didn’t go ,still miss the samples !!

  4. Great post, thanks! I went on Sunday because of the buzz about it – I’ve only been once before years ago (diagnosed in ’98) and it really was rubbish then. Definitely worth the trip but I totally agree with you – more healthy stuff please! I have this terrible desire to try everything if it’s gluten-free, especially if I haven’t tried it before. Nevertheless it was a great opportunity to trial stuff without spending the big bucks on the full packet. However I felt quite sick after almost 3 hours of sampling!

    I enjoyed Nia’s Foods doughnuts – first time I’ve had a doughnut since diagnosis and also loved Freedom Deli paninis. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten one before! Amy’s Kitchen had a nice savoury tasting station and the lasagne was lovely.

    I came home with quite a stash, being completely unable to resist the decent prices and admit to having a pear and ginger Glamourpud keeping quiet in the freezer. Unfortunately some of the other treats shout out loudly to me from my kitchen cupboard and are proving hard to resist!

    Keep up the great posts and I’ll keep checking in!

    • Thanks for the lovely comment! I missed Nia’s unfortunately – will have to keep an eye out for them. I think a few people make donuts now, but noone seems to have cracked ones that last long enough to sell in the shops.

      Glad you found lots of things to try and take home- there were definitely some good bargains to be had. I’ve eaten quite a lot of my sweet treats already, but also enjoying some of the new breakfast products I picked up- much more virtuous.

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