Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The Tale of the Convenient Co-op

When I was a child, the local convenience store was a Spar at the end of the road. 

It wasn't very big - about the size of a large living room, but you could buy your everyday essentials there.  I  have fond memories of buying bottles of Corona lemonade from that shop. You could return them (once empty) in exchange for 10p. 

I'm so glad I didn't need free from food back then, as I'm absolutely certain that the Spar didn't have any Free From foods - that was probably an unknown in those days.

Where we live now, there's a Co-op. I don't know whether you've ever tried shopping at the Co-op (I have to say that I tend to find them a bit variable). I don't usually darken the door of this one - mainly because it soon became quite apparent that it didn't stock Free From food... of any kind. I wasn't too surprised, as it was really just a convenience store and whoever heard of a convenience store with a Free From section??

Now, that's not to say that Co-op is always that limited, with regard to Free From. Where we used to live, the nearest Co-op used to be a Somerfield's (before they went out of business) and was consequently much bigger and better - especially as far as Free From shopping went. It certainly wasn't the greatest - I preferred Tesco Extra or Sainsbury's, as their ranges are much wider, but it was worth the odd fly-by from time to time.

Recently, however, our local Co-op closed for refurbishment and 'Lo and Behold' it has undergone a real transformation! Its cleaner for a start, but also, having a slightly larger shop floor, it now boasts a Free From section. It's mainly gluten free, with nothing specifically dairy free, apart from Alpro soya desserts, but that's a start. 

Ok, so it's only the end of an aisle!

The Co-op does stock dairy free milk, though, both in the chiller and the long life aisle, but it's no good for me, as it's all made with soya. However, on the plus side, the dairy free margarine in the chiller is Pure sunflower margarine, which I can have. It was also priced very reasonably. AND, what's more, they now stock The Black Farmer's dairy, soya , gluten, nut and sesame free sausages in packs of ten - just right for a BBQ, I reckon!

So, it would seem that things are on the up, and wonders will never cease - a village convenience store can have a Free From section after all! Although, I have to wonder... is it just because we live in a fairly  'affluent' area (well bits of it are, anyway, compared to some other parts of the UK)? 

It does seem to me that affluent areas are slightly better catered for in this respect. Waitrose in Cobham (more affluent still), where my sister lives, seems to have a lot more choice than our nearest branch. How is it for you, where you live??

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