This year’s Allergy Show went by in such a blur of activity I cannot believe I still didn’t manage to speak to and visit all the stands I’d ear-marked for attention. It was heaving and sometimes you just had to walk on by when the crowds were four deep clamoring for free samples.
Supporting the FreeFrom SkinCare Awards 2015
First things first, I helped out on the FreeFrom Food Awards stand to man the FreeFrom Skincare Awards display of shortlisted and winning products. I also helped hand out the certificates to all the very worthy winners.
If you’re into healthy, organic, natural skincare products which don’t contain nasty ingredients like SLS, parabens etc. then these awards should interest you. If you care about what you eat it’s equally as important to consider what you feed your skin.
Rigorous testing means the winning products not only work really well but are also healthy and natural and in the category I judged, suitable for eczema skin and those with sensitive and dry skin conditions.
Visit the FreeFrom Skincare awards website to find out more.
Speaking at the allergy show – if I didn’t laugh I’d cry
It was an honour to be asked to speak at the Allergy Show again this year but this time I had a half hour slot every day! Not just one presentation but THREE! That is pretty intense and I’m pleased to say the sessions were really well attended though a little quieter on the final day.
Thank you to everyone who came along to hear my funny stories and laugh at my terrible cartoon drawings about what it’s like living with life threatening allergies day-to-day. I wanted to make people laugh, to bring a bit of joy and humour into an allergy infested world. Allergies suck.
They can be fatal and #LivingInFear can be quite life limiting so I wanted people to see it in a different way. To realise that whilst it’s bad luck and a bit crap, things could be a lot worse.
What about lunch?
If you’re like me you may have been grazing since 10am in the morning and not need much lunch but I take very great care about what I sample. I don’t try new products and eat nothing I haven’t vetted carefully; the general rule is ALWAYS read the ingredients and checked with staff that cross contaminated is not going to be a problem.
Special thanks to the BFree stand who let me have a few humous and vegetable pittas most days. I kept putting on a disguise and going back around for another (I wonder if they noticed?). The holy grail of gluten, wheat, egg and dairy free pittas has been cracked, these were really tasty, held together perfectly and were healthy too. I bought some to take home and have been enjoying them this week for my lunch.
The ilumi stand also let me have a few curry samples, one after the other. Thank you! I bought a job lot of exciting new meals from them too. Bring on takeaway night.
As for actual lunch options, I did a quick trawl around the various cafes and restaurants and whilst labelling was good, there was very little on offer in the way of actual healthy, tasty freefrom lunch selections. I spoke to The Allergy Show about this and their hands are somewhat tied. The catering vendors have the monopoly on food service at the venue and whilst stands can offer samples, selling a lunch option would incur extra costs to the show organisers.
So how can we inspire these cafes and restaurants to embrace the show they are hosting? Could they adapt their menu to cater for their more challenged allergic, gluten free and vegan guests just for a few days? There were a few salads but these often contained satay sauce or gluten, cous cous or pasta. It wasn’t inspiring but luckily there were plenty of stalls to visit for samples and of course, I am never without the obligatory emergency lunch supplies.
New freefrom products
If I visited you and miss you out here I apologise profusely. I have so many business cards and scribbled notes and discovered so many lovely new products these are just my top 10. Here goes:
- Isabel’s Kitchen doughnuts – buy a packet mix and make your own gluten and dairy free doughnuts
- Lakrits Fabriken Liquorice gluten free liquorice – they had various flavours and if you’ve craved liquorice for as long as I have these are really worth trying.
- Soft Sage dough balls – these were vegan and came in plain or cheesy flavour. I preferred the plain ones. Made with cassava so really chewy and different to normal dough balls.
- NaNa nice cream – Oh My God, this dairy free fruit, banana based frozen dessert is amazing. I went back for three different flavours. Try it! It’s delicious and really healthy; counts as one of your 5 a day.
- Heck gluten free sausages – very tasty, high meat content and low in fat. Gluten free sausages at their best
- Debbie & Andrews gluten free sausages – more sausages. I loved their caramelised onion flavour saussies.
- EatReal Hummus crisps – I just love these crisps which are gluten free and made with chickpea flour
- Warburtons NewBurn Bakehouse Lemon and Poppy seed muffins – I may be a late to the picnic with these but they were originally gluten free but contained dairy so I couldn’t eat them. This is an example of a supplier who listens to its customers. These are now dairy, wheat, gluten, soya and nut free. Got me a bargain bag of these goodies.
- Bfree gluten free pittas – Not only are these gluten, dairy and soya free, they are also egg free and really tasty. One of my absolute favourite finds from the show. I can’t find this in the shops or on their website yet so watch this space. Having had a little taster these are so good they have to go well. Ask for them in your local store. Let’s get the pittas out there.
- Gluten free beer – this year there were so many different gluten free beers to choose from you could have been sloshed by 11am. Thank you to all of you fine brewers, including Greens, Daura Damm, Celia, Mongozo and Hepworth Brewing Company. I hope I didn’t miss anyone off this list. Feel free to chastise me if I did.
Where were Holland and Barrett?
I did meet the Holland and Barrett badger strolling around the show and like the true lush I am, never pass up the chance of a selfie. However I think Holland and Barrett missed a trick. They have an amazing new range of freefrom products available now online from their website and the first Holland and Barret More store open in Chester.
What they didn’t have was a stand at the show. What a missed opportunity. On day one the badger and his helpers were not even branded with the company logo. I had to ask who they were. Badger needs a big signpost or a H&B tshirt, not that he needs any more layers, he must have roasting in that getup.
They did have flyers and later on some nice sashes to advertise the brand but I searched for the elusive stand only to discover that they didn’t even have one. Where were you Holland and Barrett?
What has happened to Sainsbury’s?
A few years ago I would have said that Sainsbury’s were leading the way in the #freefrom supermarket food arena. They’re still pretty good and I love quite a few of their products but I think they’ve taken their eye off the ball slightly. They had quite a large stand at the show with pretty much nothing on it.
They had a big box of individually wrapped chocolates with no ingredients label. I think I’ve had these chocolates before and am pretty sure I can eat them but without an full list of ingredients, I’m not risking it. Not with my track record at the allergy show – don’t ask!
They also had a big box of rather tasty looking gingerbread men. Again with no ingredients. The staff did know which allergens they were freefrom but when you’re allergic or intolerant to allergens that are not in the Top14 you kind of want to do a double and triple check. I like to check anyway… I am nothing if not thorough. But without the written ingredients to refer to it’s impossible to feel completely at ease.
I didn’t try the gingerbread men or the chocolate.
Maybe I’m being harsh but it’s a competitive world out there and I think an opportunity to meet thousands of potential customers at the Allergy Show was not fully optimised by Sainsbury’s. I love you Sainsbury’s but I’m a bit disappointed if I’m honest.
The allergy and freefrom apps
The show was positively stuffed with new apps to help those living with allergies and food intolerances. If you haven’t already done so, find out about the following:
- Alert 5 (banner in the side panel on this home page my blog) which helps get emergency services to anyone having a reaction.
- Food Maestro – a new initiative to help make healthy shopping easier with allergies.
- Can I eat there? – a new app to help you find safe places when eating out
- BiteAppy – another great eating out app which specialises in gluten free safe places and also allergens
Learning about IBS – Vicky Grant’s story telling
I didn’t have much time to attend the seminars but there was one that I heard being announced over the tannoy. I was actually on the loo at the time, cursing my irritable bowel and the IBS Network session was announced, saying it would be patients sharing their stories about living with IBS. Well it was an omen. The IBS is the only embarrassing part of my life which is not fully under control.
The stories these brave people told were funny, heart warming and I sobbed through Vicky Grant’s bit. She read an excerpt from a book she is writing about her life with IBS. It was a very moving story and so well written and gripping. You wouldn’t think the trials of IBS would be funny and awful all at the same time. Anyway I learnt quite a bit and am very glad I attended. One big theme which came out was not to feel ashamed, to get help and to take Vitamin D.
Thanks to all the speakers but especially the IBS network for raising this embarrassing subject.
So this year the Allergy Show was once again a whirlwind of new products, networking, exciting presentations and learning opportunities. All my favourite brands were there, you all know who you are. I’m too tired now to list you all but thank you Nairns, Cocoa Libre, ilumi, Pudology, Venice Bakery etc.
I missed out on getting some Violife dairy free cheese to try. My mission to find some is still in progress. Can anyone tell me where I can buy this?
I even round a bus from outside Olympia all the way to Marylebone which was a great find after discovering the trains weren’t running. I am always torn between desperately wanting it to end and go and needing an extra day at the show. If only I could clone myself or somehow get to stands before the crowds build. More to follow on freefrom skincare finds. Too much to put in one blog.
What were your best finds and favourite stands and what disappointed you this year?
Read more reviews of the Allergy Show here:
“All go at the Allergy Show” by Michelle Berridale-Johnson
Gluten Free Cup of Tea’s Top 16 finds from the allergy show.
Sugarpuffish blogger’s review of her experience at the show this year
The Intolerant Gourmand’s review of the show, which features the many apps available and eating with a small child at the show.