Thursday, 15 January 2015

Shopping with food allergies in the UK

From travelling abroad, and chatting online to people who are planning on travelling here, I've discovered that sometimes you need local knowledge to assist you in finding what you're looking for. This post is aimed at those from outside the UK, who are wondering how they'll get on, if they come to the UK! BUT if you're new to food allergies and living here in the UK, you may also find this post helpful!


Britain has a number of large supermarket chains. Some of which are better than others at catering to the Free From market. Foods that are produced particularly for those who have special diets, are often lumped together in a section known as 'Free From'. Please note that this is not a legal term, but just one that seems to have made its way in to general usage!

Mostly, the Free From aisles in UK supermarkets often seem to major on those who are gluten free, but they often stock a large range of dairy free milk products too - they're just usually found next to the UHT milk or in the chiller section! However, if you examine food labels, you can often find other products that may prove suitable - if you apply directly to the supermarkets, they can send you a list.

Something for everyone! This is the range of dairy free milk available in one Tesco Extra store.

Unfortunately, if you are suffering from other allergies, such as egg or nut, you might not find yourself quite so well served, although Tesco have started to display egg free logos on some of their Free From products.

I find Tesco and Sainsbury's tend to have the biggest ranges - but you usually need to locate their big out of town stores. The area tends to dictate how good the range might be. If it's based in a wealthier area, for example, the Free From range tends to be much larger and more varied. It's what we, in the UK, refer to as a 'postcode lottery'.

That said, you can often find a few dairy free milks in most smaller supermarkets, even in those that are convenience store size, but don't expect too much else, except maybe a soya-based spread or yoghurt!

Sainsbury's 'Free From' aisle, Ashford, Kent

If the Tesco is as good as the one at Brooklands, in Surrey, then you'll find a brilliant Free From aisle, Freezer section and also a chiller section. As well as a varied range of long life and chilled dairy free milk, and the usual chilled spreads, such as Pure, and soya-based cheese and yogurt products, Tesco have recently started selling great dairy free dessert products, such as Pudology

In the right Tesco, you can also find Co-yo, a dairy and soya free yogurt product, that up until now, you'd only find in a health food shop, as well as Violife - a dairy and soya free cheese, that again has been hard to get hold of, until now, but is proving popular among the dairy free! There's even dairy free iced coffee, although that's located near the 'normal' iced-coffee, in my store! That's the funny thing about Tesco - it seems there's no standard lay-out. In some stores, some of the chilled Free From products are dotted about and not kept together, so keep your eyes peeled!

Tesco 'Free From' chilled range

Sainsbury's, meanwhile, doesn't have much more than dairy free milk, some spread and soya yoghurt in their chiller cabinet, but their Free From freezer department has a few gems and I do appreciate the expansion of Sainsbury's free from confectionery. It's where I like to go for dairy free chocolate! They stock the very popular dairy and gluten free chocolate known as 'Moo Free,' alongside their own brand and Kinnerton, which is also nut free.

I also like Asda, whose range has definitely improved, over the last year, and Waitrose, which tends to stock more higher end free from merchandise, such as Booja Booja. I'm so thrilled that I can now go to Waitrose and buy a fabulous dairy free ice cream imported from the US. I am not such a fan of Morrison's or Co-op, as, in my experience,  their range tends to be quite small, although I have heard that some Morrisons stock a dairy free cheese known as 'Cheezly'. UPDATE May 2016: Morrison's have recently expanded their Free From ranges- they now stock a lot more products, so if you live nearby, take a look!

'Free From' aisle, Asda, Chandler's Ford, Hampshire

Marks and Spencers have finally begun to take note of the Free From market. The other year they brought out some some gluten free products and last year followed suite with a 'Made Without Dairy' range of milks, dairy free spread and even chocolate! However, only the larger ones seem to really be worth visiting. 

Smaller chains such as Aldi and Lidl, don't really stock much in the way of Free From products, down my way, but do seem to flirt with the idea from time to time! I got really excited when Aldi began to stock a few items not so long ago - a loaf and some soup, but these soon disappeared. However, Lidl has just recently advertised a gluten free promotion.


Is an online supermarket, but is not available in the whole of the UK. You may need a UK-based friend or relative to supply an address, to where you can get your stuff ordered. They have a fantastic Free From range, which is much better than the other supermarkets, and their website has a very useful filtering system to help you work out which products are suitable for you. The only draw-back is the delivery fee! Find out more here.

Vegan & Health Food Shops

There are other options for Free From shopping other than the supermarkets - I often visit my local independent health food shops. Independent stores can be slightly more expensive, but often stock products that chains will not and, in my experience, might be open to trying or ordering in products that you've seen online, but can't buy elsewhere!

Holland and Barrett

Holland and Barrett is a well-known health food chain store, found in high streets, throughout the UK. It very much depends on the shop as to how good the Free From range happens to be. Some stores have a chiller and freezer section and some do not. Bizarrely, the best stores are not always in the biggest towns. So, for example, I live near Southampton, Winchester and Eastleigh. Of all of these, Eastleigh is the smaller town, but has the better range!

Good branches of Holland and Barrett will stock a good range of dairy free UHT milk and yogurt, including this dairy and soya free yogurt. They sell Booja Booja dairy and soya free ice cream, some gluten free and Vegan frozen pies, as well as a variety of dairy free cheeses. They are also expanding their chilled ranges to include Violife cheese and Pudology's new dairy and soya free yogurts!!

Dairy free chocolate can also be found here, particularly at Easter and Christmas, when their range quite noticeably expands!


London has some amazing Health Food and Vegan shops where you can find some great Free From products:

Whole Foods Market The biggest is the one in Kensington, where, in fact, there's so much choice, it's bewildering! Whole Foods Market also have a cafe!

Vegan X Is a Vegan clothing and food store, based near King's Cross.

Whole Foods Market, Clapham Junction, London

Home Counties

The Home Counties (the outlying counties clustered around London) are also generally quite well served - both by the supermarkets, and health food shops, on the whole.

If you find yourself in Surrey, check out Food for Thought is a good-sized health food shop that has two branches in Surrey - one in Kingston and the other (larger one) in Guildford.

In Hampshire, there's a large Vegan store in Southampton, which I have yet to visit!

The Regions

However, here are one or two gems out in the more regional areas of the UK that are worth knowing about:

Alternative Stores in Newcastle also have an online store that delivers throughout the UK

Goodness Direct are mainly an online Health Food Shop, but are based in the Northampton are. You can pick up your shopping direct from their base in Daventry, if you are based nearby.

And here (based on personal experience) is where to go on the Isle of Wight!

However, keep your eyes peeled, 'cos Free From food can turn up in the strangest of places! I've noted some short runs of dairy free milk and other products in 99p shops, whilst some garden centres, and farm shops also now stock free from. Just look at these products, found in Haskin's Garden Centre, near Southampton:

OK, I admit it's mostly gluten free! 


From what I can gather Scotland, like any parts of the north, doesn't seem quite as well served as some other parts of the UK. 

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is another case in point, altogether! Shipping seems to be the major problem, in this case. For anyone travelling to this part of the UK, I would suggest you contact Laura of Dairy Free Kids (via Face Book or @dairyfreekids, on Twitter). She's from the Republic of Ireland, but is probably still likely to know more than I about shopping in Northern Ireland!

Reading Food Labels

All food products in the UK must be labelled according to the EU's new regulations see here for clarification. This is meant to help food shoppers with allergies find out which food will be suitable for them. It also applies to food sold in cafes/restaurants whether sold loose or packed. 

Some manufacturers may include extra advice, concerning the risks of any products made alongside other products containing relevant allergens, but they are not required to do so, by law. In fact, sometimes this can be more of a hindrance, as some stores, afraid of being prosecuted seem to slap 'may contain' warnings on almost everything! 

If you have a dairy allergy, take particular care when buying Vegan products listed as 'dairy free' they may not be quite as free from dairy as you assume - they're often manufactured on the same lines as dairy products, so check their labels! I have been caught out by this several times, so do take care!

Over to you!

Do you live here in the UK, and have something to add? Or, have you visited here and made some great finds? Please add your top tips in the comments section below! 

Many thanks and Happy Free From Shopping!

Related Post:

Self catering in Switzerland?? What you need to know about shopping Free From


  1. That's a brilliant post, very helpful for people visiting :)

  2. Useful post. When you stand back and look at the free-from selections in supermarkets as a 'whole' - as your photos show - it's really quite impressive what a wide selection there is on the market now, compared to ten, even five years ago. Hopefully growth in the 'other' allergens (e.g. egg free) will push forward in years to come ...

    1. Thank Alex! I must admit, I do feel fortunate that I am facing the challenges now and not ten years or so ago! Of course there's always room for improvement ;)

  3. interesting stuff, I am glad you have now found my products too, hopefully you can make it along to Brighton Vegfest to try some in person.
    regards badger
    also on facebook and twitter

    1. Hi!

      Unfortunately I couldn't make it to Vegfest, but look forward to seeing your company develop and grow, so that you become more readily available.

      Best wishes with your enterprise!