Monday, 21 May 2012

Confessions of an Allergy Show Virgin

Confession No. 1 - I nearly didn't go!
Not so long ago, I didn't even know that there was such a thing as an Allergy Show and even if I had, I might not have considered myself allergic enough to go, but things have changed somewhat for us, these days. I have to admit, I still hummed and hahed a bit about going (I had other options that day) but as we were meeting friends in London, for lunch on Saturday anyway, The Hub and I decided to download some free tickets and pop in for a bit. And for us, not living too far away from London, I think it was definitely worth it. 

Confession No.2 - We left it to the last minute
Not having been to Olympia before, I had no idea that there were four exhibition halls, or that we would have to walk almost all the way around the building, in order to find the entrance, but eventually we found our way in.

Arriving so late in the day (we only had an hour) it definitely had that end-of-the-day look and there was no sign of any goody bags at the entrance - just racks of empty stands that had obviously held pamphlets etc. earlier in the day. However, despite it being the end of the day, the place was still humming with activity - most stalls were quite busy with people enquiring, sampling and buying. I was a bit anxious, at this stage, as to whether we would really have enough time to find what we needed/wanted, but it wasn't quite as big as I expected. That said, there were over 180 stands.

Not all of the stalls were relevant to our needs of course, so, time being short, my tactic was mainly to start, keep going and then go back to any we really wanted to see. The main flaw in this plan was remembering what it was that I wanted to see - that and the fact that I couldn't resist diving in on certain stands to taste samples.. and to buy!

It was at this stage that I was thankful for two things: first that Baby was sound asleep in her pushchair (which gave me plenty of opportunity to browse uninterrupted) and secondly that I had  obeyed inner promptings the day before and brought what was (for me - I tend to use a card) a fair amount of cash. This was because you couldn't rely on stall holders having credit card facilities, and cash is quicker, generally speaking.

Confession 3 - I spent more than I intended to
One of the major advantages of going to The Allergy Show was that exhibitors were selling their goods at specially discounted prices. So it wasn't too hard to spot a bargain and take advantage of it. We were soon loaded up with Free From goodies, some of which we could get from a supermarket, but some of which were new to us. I began to see why people who had been before had suggested that it was necessary to take a trolley, and was glad we had the pushchair!

So besides picking up bargains, from some fairly well established companies, I soon discovered that another advantage of attending The Allergy Show was discovering new products. Some of these were from companies of which I'd heard but not yet sampled. Others were obviously still in the pipeline and trying to raise their profile, some were further along the line, and in the middle of plans to expand. Either way, it was interesting to meet some of the people involved, hear a snippet of their story and sample some exquisite products. 

One of my favourites, which we only found near the end, was an ice cream company, called Bessant and Drury who make dairy and soya free ice cream - based on coconut milk. They are only nine months down the road, but already recipients of an award for their lemon ice cream. Having tasted the chocolate version, despite being a train journey away from home (under assurances that it should be good for an hour or so in their freezer bag) I just had to buy some of their small tubs of strawberry, vanilla, lemon and a large tub of chocolate.

My other favourite was a pudding company aptly named Pudology. They produced puddings that were dairy and gluten free. They seemed to have three pudding options on the table. My eye was on the Banoffee - it's the pudding I miss the most but only the chocolate pudding was available to sample. The only way I can describe the taste is that it is just as good as a GU. I would definitely have bought from their stand, if only they'd had some ready for me to buy. Still waiting for endorsement from Waitrose (they've been before the Head Chef) I cannot wait for these to hit the shelves - not just those of Waitrose, and can only hope the company will be able to keep up with demand.

Keeping up with the demand, I discovered is one problem that is currently facing the Celtic Chocolate company - manufacturers of the Choices range. They also, I was told, make chocolate buttons for Asda and Sainsbury's. Following the recent disappearance of Humdingers, Choices are the only ones who make dairy free chocolate buttons for a reasonable price (50p a bag) so it was a no-brainer to buy  a box of fourteen for only £6. As our local Sainsbury's seem to have trouble keeping them on the shelves, I only wish I'd bought more!
Also wish I'd spent more time at Hale and Hearty's stall. I stayed long enough to have a quick sample of their delicious chocolate coated flapjacks - individually packed, so handy to take out. I couldn't walk away without some!

Confession No.4 - I wish I'd had more time
OK, I think it was worth going, even for just an hour, but more time to look around was definitely needed. There were a host of information stalls from which I only had time to take leaflets and I missed out on some merchandise stalls that I really wanted to visit - they looked interesting but were too busy, with time short, for me to hang around. We had Baby with us and there's only so long we get for anything, with her around!

Confession No. 5 - I broke Rule Number One
Rule Numero Uno, for anyone affected by any allergy/intolerance? Always check the ingredients. This I knew! However, ho hum, stupid me! Carried away by the fact that I was in the nearest thing to Food Allergy Heaven, and still being fairly new to this whole thing I'm afraid I made some rookie (but not completely disastrous) mistakes. I saw 'gluten free,' I saw 'dairy free,' I even saw 'soya free,' (although soya lecithin is apparently quite safe) and then I just stopped looking! Good job I took The Hub, then! 

It was he, at my elbow, as I hurriedly sampled a tiny amount of some chocolate goodies at one stall and waited impatiently for a chance to sample the ice cream, spotted that, instead of using dairy or soya, they used raw cashews instead. Good job I went no further! A small amount I could handle, but too much more and I could have been very uncomfortable on the train journey home!

I made a similar mistake on the Naked (don't try Googling that) stall, but after that I became a lot more cautious, so that, when we were departing the venue at the end of the day, and The Hub spotted an opportunity to buy a Hot Dog, I anxiously called after him to make sure it was gluten and dairy free. At that point, a lady with two small children, who was waiting nearby, beamed at me ecstatically and rejoiced with me, that indeed it was

For me, that was one of the highlights of the show. As I left the show, clutching my hot dog in my hand, I felt almost normal again - just being able to walk up to a stand and buy some food to take away. It was almost worth going, just for that!

Will I be going again?
Yes, oh yes, oh yes! 

Anything to add?
It was interesting to see the major supermarkets exhibiting too. I just hope, however, that whoever helps select the Free From food that they sell, took time out to mingle among the other stalls and take note. I would love to think that they sampled the same foods and came to the same kind of conclusions that we did.

Did you go to the Allergy Show? If so, how was it for you?


  1. One spoonful of that Pudology sold me, oh how I miss chocolate puddings, I really want to see this product in the shops. Years ago Sainsburys stocked a dairy free mousse (think it was by NoMoo or something like that) it was lovely, I bought it most weeks but then it vanished. It is lovely to have seen how much bigger it has become, I went two years ago and it was smaller & slightly disappointing. Those Hearty & Hale flapjacks are a firm favourite of mine as well.

    1. dairyfreebabyandme22 May 2012 at 16:54

      Pudology is lush definitely. The Allergy Show was quite an eye opener for me. I thought I had found a fair few products doing my usual rounds of the local stores, but it just goes to show that there's always room for more! It also made me realise how many more sufferers there are out there - and those were just the ones who knew about it and were there! Supermarkets please take note!