Recently I visited The Allergy and Free From show with my girlfriend, and owner of DiabetesAnd.me, Becky Smith. We both thought it would be interesting if I wrote this event review to switch things up a bit.
Although I don’t have diabetes, my girlfriend does, which means I am very curious about the kinds of foods and products she likes to buy. If I’m honest, I’ve come to find it all quite exciting. It gives me the opportunity to try new things and start thinking about the food I put into my body. I don’t have health issues that require me to follow a particular diet, but I would like to prevent health issues in the future. I know I can do this by eating healthily and adopting a balanced, carb-conscious diet.
Anyway, let’s move onto the show. Luckily I was able to attend on both Saturday and Sunday. Of the two days, Saturday was the less busy day, probably because of the England game. Much to Becky’s delight, I am not much of a football fan, so I had no issue going to the event while the match was on.
Shortly after arriving at the venue (Kensington Olympia) I was given a bright yellow Schär lanyard in which I placed my ticket for the event. Schär, who make various gluten-free products, was a show sponsor and were giving away bags of goodies to everyone in attendance. The goodie bag contained a selection of items, including Schär products (e.g. bread rolls, chocolate O’s, seeded loaf etc.), Aveeno skincare samples, decaf/dairy-free PG tips samples, a Barley Cup sample, a Turmerlicious sample and lots of different leaflets and money off coupons. The queue for these goodies bags was quite long but moved at a steady pace. I have to give props to the staff handing out the bags as they were very fast and efficient.
For me, a massive highlight of the show was discovering the new Sacla free from pesto range. Before Becky was diagnosed with diabetes, one of our favourite meals was pesto pasta and chicken. It is a simple meal, but one that we loved. It was so quick and easy to make on nights when we were too tired to spend ages in the kitchen making dinner, it was perfect. However, following Becky’s diagnosis she was instructed to follow a very low-fat diet to bring down her high triglycerides and cholesterol, which meant no more regular pesto. Although Becky no longer needs to follow a very low-fat diet, she does have to watch her saturated fat intake as she doesn’t tolerate it very well. But now that Sacla has released this amazing free from range, we can start having the meal we loved so much again (but with low carb pasta).
At the show, we were invited to taste the new free from pesto. I find that a lot of free from products suffer from a lack of taste. Therefore, I was sceptical about the pesto being anywhere near as delicious as the regular Sacla pesto. However, my scepticism was unfounded. The free from pesto was delicious. Sacla removed the cheese making the pesto lower in saturated fat and replaced it with tofu making the product both vegan-friendly and dairy free. They did a fantastic job of maintaining the delicious flavour even after removing the cheese. On the spot, we decided to purchase half a dozen pots of pesto and were kindly given a complimentary recipe book. How cool is that!?
I discovered a lot of products I had never heard of before attending the show and I would like to mention some of my favourites. Please note, some will not be suitable for a low carb diet, but they were still really good and worth a mention.
I will start out with Red Red stew pots. I don’t know about you, but I often struggle to find good food options for lunch. I am terrible at preparing meals for the week and often find myself buying something unhealthy while on-the-go. Well, that is all about to end now that I have found Red Red stew pots.
The company slogan ‘a lunch less ordinary’ is quite fitting considering that Red Red has managed to squeeze the rich, wholesome flavours of Africa into a pot that is ready to eat in just 7 minutes. All you need to do is add some boiling water to the stew, leave it to stand for 6 minutes with the lid on, then give it a good stir and enjoy! At the event, I tried the red beans and sweet potato flavour and I was very impressed. The wonderful thing about this product is that on top of its full flavour every pot is made using only plant-based, vegan, gluten-free ingredients. If you haven’t done so already, give Red Red stew pots a try (if it fits within your dietary requirements).
Next, I want to talk about a fantastic little business named Mannys Sauces. As you have probably gathered by what I have said in this review already, I am big on taste. I hate food that is bland and am always on the lookout for healthy, flavoursome products. Finding Mannys Sauces at the show was exciting as they specialise in the types of sauces Becky and I love e.g. peri peri, tomato, curry etc. Becky was particularly happy as she found the carb content to be low on all of their sauces. She ended up purchasing 6 different flavours!
You are probably thinking: what is so special about these sauces? Well, the special thing about Mannys Sauces is that they are nut free, lactose-free, gluten free, egg free and contain no added sugar or artificial flavours or colourings. They have a sauce for almost every type of meat, and above all else, the sauces taste great. You need to try Mannys Sauces. Also, if you get the chance, head over to their website (https://www.mannyssauces.com/) and visit the ‘Our Story’ page. It talks about how the owner of Mannys was one of the original founders of Nandos! No wonder their sauces are so good.
If you enjoy a chocolate treat, then you’ll want to keep an eye on a new company named Hella Yum. You cannot buy their products yet as they will be launching at some point this summer, but they were at the show giving attendees the chance to taste their chocolate mousse. I can confirm that the mousse is delightful, and like many other products at the show, comes with the added benefit of being free from additives, refined sugar, gluten, soy, lactose, trans fats, gm ingredients and colouring.
We had the pleasure of meeting Basma and Dan from Deliciously Guilt Free. They were very friendly and told us a lot of interesting things about their company and products. On their stand, they were selling a fantastic range of low carb, low sugar, gluten-free, high fibre brownies and blondies. These products can also be purchased on their website: https://www.deliciouslyguiltfree.com/. They pledge to produce food that has a low impact on blood sugar levels and they only use natural ingredients. Becky bought one of each brownie and ate them all before I even had a chance to try one! However, she has promised to buy more and share them with me.
Another brand that deserves a mention is Explore Cuisine. Every time I walked past their stand, it was busy with people waiting to taste their protein-rich bean pasta. Interestingly they were serving their pasta samples with the Sacla free from pesto which gave me a chance to enjoy the amazing product again.
My favourite bean pasta from Explore Cuisine has to be the organic edamame spaghetti. My initial worry was that the pasta would taste to light and airy, but it actually tasted full and had a lot of substance to it. The spaghetti went really well with the Sacla pesto. Becky was happy to discover that the edamame spaghetti was low in carbs so she purchased a pack. I am looking forward to trying some of Explore Cuisine’s other products, namely the chickpea and lentil pasta.
Other notable exhibitors at the event included Daura Gluten Free Beer, a fantastic beverage that tasted smooth and bright, and Wyld Wood Organic Cider, a perfect drink for summer days. Again, these may not suit your personal dietary requirements, but they tasted great.
There were a lot of other businesses and brands at the event that I haven’t mentioned who offer good products and services. However, in this review, I have chosen to speak about the ones that particularly stood out to me.
In short, I am already looking forward to next years event. The Allergy and Free From show is a great place to discover and try new products. The mix of large and small businesses gave the event a really good balance. Becky and I especially enjoyed being able to speak with some of the smaller businesses about their products directly. Often you would find that the owner of the product was the person running the stand so it was a great opportunity to find out more and network. I really liked the educational element of the show as well. There were areas where you could watch experts giving talks and get involved with informative Q&A sessions. A lot of people, like myself, are still learning about different types of allergies and health conditions so this was a great way to become more informed.
I think it is important to mention that my experience at the event was very different from Becky’s. Because I don’t have any dietary requirements I would often be drawn to stands that looked interesting, regardless of the health benefits offered by their products. Whereas Becky was specifically focused on finding low carb brands. She did find some really interesting low carb products, but both of us would like to see more low carb focused businesses at future events, especially because low carb is becoming a dietary requirement for many individuals, particularly type 2 diabetics.
I was happy to see that the event was so busy and I can only see it becoming increasingly busy year on year. Whilst walking around you could easily forget that the event is actually four shows rolled into one e.g. The Allergy & Free From Show, Just V Show, Love Natural Love You and The Eat Smart Show. The shows merged together seamlessly giving attendees an exciting mix of things to see and explore.