Food Matters Live 2017

Food Matters Live is an annual event that takes place at London Excel, this year I was lucky enough to be invited as a result of being a judge for the Free From Eating Out Awards in September. The event lasts for 3 days, however I only attended the one day, the day the results of the Awards were announced.

Once there I collected my pass, and began to wander around the various stalls at the event.

The first stall I came across that peaked my interest, was by a brand called “treat”, they produce bread roll and vegan flatbread mixes. These mixes appealed to me as although the bread roll mix contains egg, meaning I could not have it, both of them do not contain potato or maize starch. This is something I have a particular issue with as gluten free products often use these starches as a substitute. This is also something I ended up discussing and educating a lot of people on throughout the day.

       

Another brand that took interest in my issues with potato and maize starch is a brand called Angels & Cookies, this brand creates cookie dough free of all 14 allergens, but does however use maize starch. After speaking to the founder, Karen Capetta, she provided me with a business card and requested I email her so we can discuss making a cookie dough that would be suitable for me. This brand aims to allow those suffering with food allergies to be able to indulge without making sacrifices, and based on our discussion I think they’re doing a wonderful job.

At 2 o’clock I attended a seminar which was opened by Simon Wright who is chair of the Gluten Free Industry Association. He educated those of us in the seminar about the GFIA stating that brands such as Dr Schar, Warburtons and BFree are members. Following Mr Wright was Carly B, a gluten free blogger who analysed the various types  of free from eaters and their priorities. Closing the seminar was a representative for Mr Kipling, this talk I found particularly interesting as although I know the usual Mr Kipling cakes are heavenly, I’ve never been drawn to the gluten free versions. Her talk was very interesting and highlighted the worth of the Free From market from a producers point of view, with it estimated to be worth £673m in the UK by 2020! During her talk the issue of who is consuming the goods was also discussed, with people who are doing it to benefit their lifestyle being in larger numbers than those who medically have to change their diet.

Earlier in the day the representative for Mr Kipling had actually provided me with a box of Mr Kipling gluten free brownies, to try once I had gotten home. I did this, and found them to be incredibly tasty, though slightly confusing. The brownies are packaged with two in one small tray, which is good for travelling and to carry around as a handy snack. However when I picked one up it felt hard on the outside, so I was dubious to bite into it, but once I did I discovered it to secretly be a delicious, crumbly and surprisingly not drying brownie that I will now be seeking out in the shops.

Before heading to the Free From Eating Out Awards presentation, I managed to visit the Freedom Confectionary stall. I discovered this brand at The Allergy & Free From show in Liverpool last year. Since then I have been obsessed with their marshmallows, but not always able to get them. I left the stall incredibly happy when I was given some free bags of mallows to make up for the fact they weren’t at the Free From show this year.

The awards show was wonderful, with many brands earning bronze, silver and gold awards for their free from successes. Not only was it great to see so many brands working so hard to be a welcoming free from business, but it also allowed me to discover potential restaurants/cafes I could visit in the future. The awards for the category I judged for were also announced, it was really nice to see and meet the creators behind the products I had judged, with those marvellous doughnuts mentioned in my previous post winning a gold award. To find the full list of winners click here. The overall winner was Mommi, which is a Japanese-Latin Raw Bar and Grill in London. I’d never heard of Mommi before but if ever I find myself in search of food nearby, I will definitely check them out.

Although the day was long, travelling to London from Manchester and returning the same day, it was an enjoyable one. I learnt a lot from this day, meeting lots of inspirational people and discovering many brands and company’s doing amazing work. This was my first Food Matters Live event, and hopefully not my last.

Judging The Free From Eating Out Awards 2017

Waking up at 4:30am on any other day would seem like a nightmare, but on a day when I get to be a part of the Free From Eating Out Awards as hosted by Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, it seemed more like it was part of a dream. As a result of my mother’s, Jacqui McPeake’s, work and my own personal list of confusing allergies I was presented with the wonderful opportunity to be on the judging panel for the Free From Eating Out Awards 2017 Category 9, Foods Manufactured for Food Service. I was met at London Euston by Julian Edwards from Allergy Accreditation (see here), who not only guided me through London and to Michelle’s beautiful house, but also – with Michelle – offered me the chance to be a part of this incredibly talented panel.

Once at Michelle’s house the first product tested was a dairy alternative to a milk designed for coffee, this was an intriguing opening product as it wasn’t something I necessarily expected but made for a great ice breaker and a lovely morning coffee. Especially after my early start. As someone with a dairy allergy I have tried a great number of milks from coconut to almond, hemp and soy, the list goes on. I am more than used to soy milk and the kind of coffee it produces, and this first product created a creamy coffee that enhanced the flavour of the coffee in a way soy never has done for me before.

The products that followed after this were the savoury products of this category, which was an interesting section for me. Out of the products available for testing I could only test just under half, and there were only a few that I could confidently try. This made me incredibly aware of how repetitive some of the use of ingredients were, in particular the use of maize and potato starch, two ingredients I struggle with. This however in no way undermines the products involved in this category, as there were some products that I could not try but looked tempting. A product I tried that  remained memorable to me in particular was a simple one, a meat glaze. This product interested me as I am all too familiar with being presented a plain meat meal whenever I have eaten out. The product was presented to us on chicken and the added glaze was a welcomed and enjoyable change. Although this product may not be one most people would be excited about, it thrilled me.

The next products to be tasted and judged were the dessert products, the products I naturally was most looking forward to. This section although contained some similar ingredients, was thankfully a much more edible section for me. Without a doubt the product that stole the show for me personally was a doughnut batter mix, desserts tend to excite me anyway as they aren’t something I’m frequently offered, but this particular dessert was everything I didn’t know I wanted. They were light, fluffy and the tasting left me wanting more. Another product that pleased me was a brownie mix, which although there are many of, it can be questioned how many truly exquisite ones there are. A brownie is a classic dessert and one frequently offered to someone with an allergy (that’s if a fruit salad isn’t available), but I have had many an average or sometimes even a below-average brownie. A brownie mix that easily allows you to make your own brownies on demand, that taste incredible – I can assure you! – are a very handy item. I’ve had many a free from brownie and the brownies this mix produced are if not the best, one of the best I have ever tried.
Finally, to round off the dessert section tasting and the day, we tried some chocolate bars. Of course nowadays you can find your standard plain dairy free chocolate bars in many supermarkets, I know I have a few Tesco and ASDA favourites, but I thought these would be of a particular interest to those with a dairy allergy who either miss their old favourites or wish they could try them. These chocolate bars however are not for those with a nut allergy as the ones we tested contained nuts, and mimicked the flavours of some other (dairy filled) popular chocolate bars available.

Shortly after the final judging and discussion about the desserts tasted, I had to head back to London Euston for my train home. This day, though one unexpected, opened up a world to me I didn’t realise I could fall into but am thrilled I have. It was wonderful to meet so many people also interested in the world of allergies and to find out about the work they have done. It was also fascinating to see and effectively analyse the list of ingredients used in the products, and consider any alternatives. I learnt a lot from the day and am now looking forward to the awards being announced.