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.
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.
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.
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?