Allergy & Gluten Free Show: My Top Picks

The 2011 Allergy & Gluten Free Show was held at London’s Olympia from 6 – 8 May.

This was the first gluten free show I have attended and I was amazed by the sheer numbers of people there, especially small kids. If I were an exhibitor at this event I would have been delighted to see such crowds attending. This certainly does point to the expected rise in gluten free sales and will surely make for a very healthy P&L in the coming year.

Here’s a round up on the event and some interesting finds:

Lavida Foods – Run by a husband and wife team (Mairaed is Coeliac) . Importers / distributors of “Bob’s Red Mill”, “Bakery on Main” and the Italian brand “Le Veneziane” amongst others. Their products can be ordered online through their own site or via retailers such as Whole Foods Market and Planet Organic. I bought a bag of Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Baking Flour. I was sold on this when I was told this was the flour used in the BabyCakes recipes. Finally I could buy the book with some hope of cooking something since the flours are now available in the UK.

Goodness Direct: Great selection of gluten free goods on offer. Not only was I surprised to hear they offered fresh goods for sale through their website, but also that if you order by 11am they should deliver next day or possibly following day. I hadn’t realised this so one to note for the future.

Green People – I have tried a number of their products but was interested to chat to them about suncream as I am always on the look out for a high factor cream which is as natural as possible. Having been on this mission for a while, I know that getting a very high factor suncream “without nasties” isn’t possible since a high sun protection factor would require the addition of chemicals. I was glad to see they have a factor 25. They advised going for factor 25 and reapplying frequently. They said this was preferable to a higher factor since much of the protection would be lost on clothes / through perspiration. They also do a factor 15 with a tan accelerator but my Celtic skin is definitely in need of a factor 25.

Plamil – Dairy free, gluten free, nut free, no added sugar, organic (phew!) chocolate. Loved the coffee chocolate.

Dialsi– On the K&E Imports stand. Talked to Elena Buchberger who is the granddaughter of the brand’s founder and whose brother has developed this gluten free range of pasta. Elena explained their corn and rice gluten free pasta did not contain starch and said the pasta would keep well until the next day if used in a salad, for example. I tried some of the white bread which was made from a packet mix. If white bread is your thing, you might like it becuase it was incredibly light and springy. Also tried some of their gluten, dairy, lactose and soya free stock. It was delicious! Elena said that in the winter she sips this clear stock as a warming drink – just as her granddad did. I bought some nice big, chunky rigatoni to try.

Fria- The Scandinavian market leader in gluten free products which has spawned Facebook groups to get their products into the UK. What can I say?? I can’t wait for this brand to make its way fully into the UK market. The bread I tasted on the stand was exactly my type of gluten free bread. Dark and packed full of seeds and fibre. I also tried the Swedish brownie which knocked my socks off. Superbly moist and very chocolatey. Not at all what I expected from a brownie but I loved it. Interesting that their products will be available frozen for you to defrost as you like at home. This is what I do today with my gluten free bread, except in reverse. As in I buy fresh gluten free loaf, slice into portions and then freeze for toasting when I need it. I came away with some seeded baguettes to try. Got interviewed about their products which was somewhat random!

Foods Matter / Alex Gazzola– A very busy stand with lots of people signing up for the Foods Matter newsletter. I finally got to meet Michelle, having not done so after arriving SO late (thanks to the trains) at the recent FreeFrom awards. Alex was doing brisk business on his very informative new book “Coeliac Disease: What You Need to Know”. You can pre-order his book here on Amazon.

Daura Beer – I drink this gluten free beer already so I know I like it but they could have had more laid out to try (we had to ask). Maybe that’s just me!

NAKD Bars – One of Mr D’s favourite. They told him to not to hold back. Big mistake!

Coeliac UK / Dr Chris Steele – Many apologies to Coeliac UK but I kind of ambushed him not realising there was an appointments scheme operating. Nonetheless he was incredibly kind to me and happily answered my questions.

Without recounting everything discussed I’ll share a couple of interesting points from our conversation. He said although blood test and biopsy is the “gold standard” for diagnosing Coeliac disease, these days it is often being made on blood test alone as the cost of biopsy in hospital is high and the blood test is 95% reliable. He also said that he believed women who struggle with fertility issues and especially those who have had 2 miscarriages, should be tested for Coeliac as untreated this can cause fertility issues. The good news, he said, is that once a strict gluten free diet is maintained your fertility returns to that of someone without Coeliac.

You can sign up for Dr Chris Steele’s weekly newsletter here where he will cover several topics including Coeliac disease.

Any downsides to the Allergy and Gluten Free Show? Well, yes. It was so hot I had to go down into the Leith’s canteen and buy some water. 2 small bottles cost me £3.80!!! How can it be OK to charge £1.90 for a small bottle of water? But if you think that’s bad, pity the poor people in front of me who paid £22.80 for 3 gluten free pre-packaged sandwiches and 3 soft drinks! Outrageous. I didn’t pay much attention to the food on offer (I just wanted water) but I did see they were serving couscous. I hope next year they have a fully gluten free menu at more reasonable price.

I really enjoyed the Allergy and Gluten Free show because it gave me the opportunity to try lots of new gluten free products – and some old friends too! Not all of the products on offer were for me but it was great to try them and meet some new companies in the gluten free market place.

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