As I was heading to the Allergy and Free From Show in London Olympia this morning, I had mixed feelings. I knew I would see many friendly faces as well as ‘free from’ brands I loved, but I was also worried I might be disappointed like I had last year. Would it really be an allergy show or a gluten-free show?
My mum came along and so did Crevette and Jumpy. I had told my little girl she would be allowed to try loads of food and I was really hoping I would not regret saying that to her. The extent of her allergies is not as bad as it used to be. All we are watching for now is wheat, eggs and nuts, so I was hoping she would be spoilt for choice. She was the happiest toddler in town this morning. Travelling by train always triggers screams of delights, and this morning was no exception. She was wearing a pretty dress and had ‘princess hair’ (a French plait on the side of her head and a ponytail).
When we got there, we immediately went for one of the largest ‘free from’ brands, to be told there was nothing safe for Jumpy to try, but we could buy their egg-free bread if we wanted. Not a good start…
Luckily, the children quickly spotted the wonderful Hailey at Allergy Adventures, and they immediately got to work on some hand art. Hailey’s business is all about helping children with food allergies, intolerances and coeliac disease. She has recently created free resources for schools to use, including videos, worksheets and detailed lesson plans.
I was then drawn to the Dyson stand, where I had a chat with Yasmin about their new humidifier, which sounds perfect for hay fever sufferers like me as it hydrates dry air for a healthier environment. It is a very clever device that automatically detects how much humidity is needed in the room and ‘breathes’ the right amount of humidity whilst helping cool your room, just like their blade free fan would. I also spotted their new cordless hoover, the V6 absolute, which is basically the same as my DC59, but with an extra filter which makes the air coming out of the vacuum cleaner healthier than the air you breathe.
The DSglutenfree stand was our next stop as they are one of the rare brands I fully trust for Jumpy. From September, they will become Schär, so no panic if you cannot find DSglutenfree in the shops any longer: they will still be there, as Schär. We tried the Panini rolls they will be launching in September, and I can safely say it is the first time I have tasted nice Jumpy-safe bread coming out of a packet. I would make my own sandwiches with them if I ran out of my own bread. I bought Jumpy’s favourite custard creams and chocolate fingers, which she tried for the first time.
The café where we stopped after that was disappointing as the only thing I could buy for Jumpy was orange juice. Well, that was not her best lunch out… Whatever had no wheat in contained either egg or possible traces of nuts. Not impressed!
At Nature’s store, we must have eaten half of the available milk chocolate rice cakes to try. That stuff is addictive! They sell them in small packs of two, which is the ideal format for Jumpy’s emergency lunchbox. I always find that when I open a pack of Kallo’s milk chocolate rice cakes, I have to finish them (who would leave a pack half-empty)… My mum bought a ton of rice cakes for just a few pounds. Two minutes after leaving the stand, we were devouring a pack of white chocolate ones. These are perfect for when we are out and about as they are way less messy than dark or milk chocolate.
We then walked past a small stand promoting their UK produced “100% tasty” cereal bars. Oh my Goodness mainly sell their products to cafés but you can get boxes of their cereal bars online as well. Jumpy and Crevette loved the ones they tried.
We then spotted Free-From Heaven’s magazines with their mouth-watering photos. I could not help myself; I had to buy a couple of their magazines. I can’t wait to leaf through them as I drink my cup of coffee tomorrow morning.
At Newburn Bakehouse by Warburtons, Graeme, who is head of operations, was clearly passionate about bread. The only issue about their wraps for Jumpy is that they are produced in a factory that uses egg. What would you do? Would you still use them despite the risk of cross-contamination?
Straight after, we headed to BFree, where we tried some delicious pitta sandwiches. Knowing Jumpy can have wraps and pitta lunches that look similar to what the rest of us have is an amazing feeling! I bought a few packs to keep in the freezer.
I was really surprised to see Thermomix there. They are insanely popular in France and I have heard a lot about them, but never seen one in action. Basically, Thermomix “combines twelve appliances in one with functions that include weighing, mixing, chopping, milling, kneading, blending, steaming, cooking, whisking, precise heating, stirring and emulsifying.” I was really impressed after chatting to Felicity and Jenny, who blogs at ‘Lunchbox Doctor’. The beetroot salad I tried was out of this world. I want a Thermomix TM5 now! What is happening to me? I am not normally one to fall for the latest gadgets, but the machine is a time-saving tool, not a kitchen toy.
I had the nicest surprise of the day when I tried Nothing But. My expectations were low, but I was won over by the texture and the flavours of the healthy chips. The packets of freeze dried produce contain absolutely nothing but fruit or veg. They are crispy, full of flavours and I have loads of ideas for incorporating them in recipes. I bought loads! Just 10g of bananas and strawberries are made with 80g of fruit. I really wish these were available in supermarkets. As I was trying to make sense of the whole freeze drying process, Jumpy declared, “I love my snacks!” Sold!
The toasted coconut crisps from Coconut Merchant got me asking for more! There was a huge queue of people asking questions there! I loved their quirky customer survey.
I think this picture makes the answer to their question quite obvious. Come on Waitrose, what are you waiting for?
Two-man company Pack’d really appealed to me from the word go with their frozen smoothie kits. I make loads of smoothies at home and I like the idea of their frozen kits for a lazy, quick treat. I tried their three types of smoothies today and loved them. Jumpy and I were not keen on the green detox one, but we’d definitely have the ‘energy’ and ‘defence’ mixes in our freezer for days when we have run out of fresh fruit.
When I stopped at Free From Market, I loved finding out about a company making a difference to families like us. We know of a fair few ‘free from’ products we now use regularly and love, but I have never found them all under one roof. Stan and Jas were incredibly passionate about delivering ‘free from’ products to families like us, without overcharging for the service. Their website is incredibly easy to navigate and they stock all the essentials I would normally get from five different places! They charge a small fee for delivery, but once you reach a certain amount, it is free.
Pana Chocolate was our next stop. The raw, organic, vegan, handmade chocolate is free from dairy, soya, gluten and refined sugar. It is also packaged beautifully and last but not least; it is a tasty, moreish treat. The Australian-based company launched the first raw-dessert store in the world in Melbourne a couple of years ago and another one is due to open early next year.
After a year of chatting with Charlie from Goody Good Stuff, we finally met. It was so good putting a face on the ray of sunshine I had been in touch with with for so long. Jumpy and Crevette are big fans of the sweets and they were not shy in sampling the sweets. Jumpy might even have thought it was a ‘Pick and Mix’ stand as she found a cupcake case somewhere (she is resourceful!) and filled it with her favourite gummies.
By that point, my little lady was so exhausted she started lying down in the middle of people’s way whenever I was stopping at a stand for a chat.
I registered Jumpy with MedicAlert, because my little girl will not always be with me. All vital details about her allergies will be held by the charity and she will receive a nice bracelet that contains essential medical information. “MedicAlert also keeps secure, detailed medical records for our members which must be kept up-to-date with your current conditions, medications, allergies and wishes. This information can be accessed in an emergency, 24 hours a day 7 days a week, from anywhere in the world, using our emergency telephone number and we are able to converse in over 100 languages. MedicAlert jewellery gives you peace of mind, allowing you to live your life without limits.”
I was also delighted to meet the lovely people at SunSense. Ever since Jumpy was diagnosed with eczema, we have not used sunscreen other than SunSense. The toddler milk is kind on my children’s skin and works beautifully. Their roll-ons are so practical I always carry one in my handbag around this time of year.
A minute later, I almost walked into my friend Nath, with her lovely Intolerant Gourmand Callum and her mum Brigitte. We had a good chat and I admired their cool T-shirts. Calum’s one read: “Keep calm ad talk to my mum about recipes.”
I could not possibly leave before I gave a hug to bubbly Julia Kitchenham from Allergy UK, and I popped over to team ‘Can I Eat There?’ for a chat. These guys really make a difference by helping people with food allergies find places to eat out and it was an honour to meet them.
One hug to Hailey at Allergy Adventures and the circle was complete. It was the end of a pretty good day. I did not manage to get to half of the stands I wanted to visit and I missed my favourite ‘Free From Fairy’. I really ought to spend two days there next year: one day with the kids trying stuff and just enjoying the show, then go home, read about the brands and go back the following day, on my own, with some sort of plan.
London Olympia was incredibly busy this afternoon and there was a buzz in the bright, spacious space. I thoroughly enjoyed the show this year. I found it 100% better than last year and was almost surprised when told that products were safe for my little girl. It was an allergy show this time, not a gluten-free one! Jumpy did not stop eating all day, and kept shouting “I hungry!” She is always hungry, but when we’re out and about, she never has that much choice! Happy girlie, happy Maman!