Eating out with food allergiesBanana pancakes


About Jackie Mitchell

Jackie Mitchell is a journalist and public relations consultant with over fifteen years' experience. She works with small businesses and charities providing PR services.

With a background as a features writer in the media, Jackie has worked on national newspapers, websites, consumer magazines, trade publications and radio stations all over the UK. For some years, she worked abroad - in Australia, Hong Kong and New York. After returning to London, she worked as an account director at several major London agencies.

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July 12th, 2015

The Allergy & Free From Show 2015

The growth of the free from market was reflected by the huge expansion of The Allergy & FreeFrom Show, held in early July this year at London Olympia. When I first visited this show some years ago, it was contained in one hall. This year’s show was huge and included two other shows – The Just V Show, aimed at vegetarians and vegans and Love Natural Love Organic. Usefully the shows were divided by different coloured carpet – green for The Allergy & Free From Show; pink for the Just V Show and blue for the Love Natural Love Organic.

One of my quests was to find as many products as possible which were both gluten free and dairy free because, as regular readers know, I am gluten free and Ray is dairy free and it is increasingly difficult to find products which cater for both allergies.

The show didn’t disappoint. First up was gluten free and dairy free falafels from Great Food UK in delicious flavour combinations – for example Tuscan vegetable Bites, Chunky Broad Bean Quinoa Bites and Aromatic Moroccan to get retailers to extend the distribution. Available from Ocado, Sainsburys (in the kosher section), Morrisons (in world food section), Tesco and Asda. How confusing that the products are stocked in different sections of the supermarket! New snack foods will be launched in August. It was a very timely discovery because I had been trying to find dairy free and gluten free falafels for some time, but found they mostly contained milk.

I visited Explore Asian producers of one of my favourite pastas made from edamame and mung bean. In September, the company will be launching a new range of ready meals such as Edamame Fettucine with Thai coconut sauce, black bean spaghetti with mild Thai Red curry sauce and Soybean Spaghetti with sundried tomato sauce. I’m looking forward to that.

Sourcing free from products is always a problem. Companies give you stockists’ details but when you go into the specified supermarket, it’s not there.

The answer is which launched at the show – an online shop selling 600 brands of free from food, so this is where you’ll be able to buy the Explore Asian products. I was astonished at the breadth of products displayed on the FreeFrom stand such as Eshal nut free peanut butter, Mini Moos dairy free chocolate, Delicious Alchemy’s gluten free vanilla sponge mix, Ugg Foods’ gluten free Chia Seed Muffins, Plamil dairy free milk chocolate spread and egg free mayonnaise with chilli. Other brands include Hale & Hearty and Rude Health.

Entrepreneur Stanley Montwedi started up the company to meet a gap in the market. (Pictured from left to right Dr Apelles Econs and Stanley Montwedi). He told me his wife and two young sons are intolerant to dairy, while one son is also intolerant to nuts, “so I know how difficult it is to find free from products. We found it such a struggle so I wanted to create a market-place for people to find free from products under one roof. It’s not only a online shop but also a sharing experience – there are recipes and a blog giving advice.” Also on the stand was Dr Apelles Econs from TV’s The Food Hospital and Embarrassing Bodies giving advice to visitors.

A first time exhibitor was Sensitive Souls started up by Alex Griffiths seven months ago who suffers from a host of allergies himself including chilli, mustard, cumin, seeds, dairy and histamine. His mission is to create fun delicious free from sweet treats. What is impressive is that the products are free from so many allergens including eggs, dairy, gluten, wheat, soya, nuts, sulphites and are suitable for vegans. A notice displayed all the allergens. Products include toffee popcorn, chocolate brownie, fruity flapjack, millionaire’s shortbread and rocky road – chocolate with marshmallows and biscuit. All very delicious. His wife Jenny, also on the stand, suffers from no allergies but has gone dairy free “and I feel much better for it,” she added.

Livia’s Kitchen has taken the traditional British apple crumble and turned it on its head. These crumbles are free from wheat, dairy and refined sugar and are available in various flavours. I tasted the yummy banana flavour, but other variants include peach and apple.

The search for cakes which are both gluten free and dairy free was successful when I reached the Wholesome Bakes Ltd  stand with its delectable array of eye-catching cakes and pastries. They are also free from nuts which is another plus. Started by Anna Godinho, the samples were going like hot cakes (!) She started making celebrations cakes, but soon realised there was a gap in the market. “Many family members suffer from allergies so I decided to make cakes that everyone can enjoy whether they have an intolerance or allergy or not.

On the Genius Gluten Free  stand  I was able to sample blueberry muffin which was delicious and moist. When I said how difficult it was to find in the supermarkets, they handed me a leaflet giving stockists details although all the information can be found on the web site. The company has diversified considerably since it first launched its gluten free bread some years ago, which was a revelation. Up until then gluten free bread had tasted like blotting paper! Products on display included Genius pies (which Ray likes) under the Denby Dale label. New to me was the apple pie so I shall be looking out for that.

It was good to see that there was a Free From Café at the exhibition selling a selection of hot food, salads and cakes.

At Amy’s Kitchen I sampled the Chinese ready meal with noodles and veggies which is not only gluten free but also suitable for vegans and vegetarians so it ticks a lot of boxes. It was delicious and marks a breakthrough for the free from market to find a ready meal that only needs to be popped into the microwave!  Not surprisingly it won a Free From Award impressing the judges who said “visually perfect with lots of flavour, easy to prepare, tasty and convenient.” Also on offer was gluten free Organic Tomato Soup, also free from egg and soya and Hearty French Country Vegetable Soup, suitable for vegans and free from gluten, dairy, soy and lactose.

I made a beeline to the Venice Bakery stand which sells the best pizza bases in my opinion, free from gluten and dairy. This is where I tasted divine slices of pizza which literally melted in my mouth. The bases are light and crispy not like he biscuit hard bases served in pizza and restaurant chains. They’re now selling free from tortilla wraps and free from breadcrumbs.

On the Udi’s Gluten Free stand was a vast range of gluten free products. I sampled a delicious light cake made form Udi’s Gluten Free sponge cake mix. Other products includer Toffee and Chocolate Chip cookies, Almond Vanilla flavour Granola, Cinnamon and Raisin Bagel and Strawberry Breakfast Bar.

If you didn’t manage to get to the London show, there will; be The Allergy & Free From Show in Liverpool from 7 to 8 November and the brand new Allergy & Free From Show Scotland to be held 19 to 20 March 2016 at the SECC Glasgow

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