It was certainly all go this weekend at the Allergy + FreeFrom Show in Olympia’s Grand Hall. We haven’t yet had all the stats but the perception of all of the exhibitors that I spoke to was that it was definitely bigger and better than last year (already a record year). That would certainly seem to be born out by the organisers’ chart of stands already pre-sold for next year; it was almost entirely (and I mean entirely) covered in green ‘sold’ dots!
The Grand Hall at Olympia is such an amazing place. Build in the 1880s, its 85 ton glass roof (which was only finally replaced in 1991) covers nearly one acre of space! Supported on beautiful, and remarkably slender columns with ball and socket bearings at the top and bottom to absorb stress, the roof is held together by a 1200 ton iron frame which still arches over a bizarre collection of gluten-free brownies, freefrom pizzas, salt lights – and the Cat Protection League!!!
Pillars are also very much in evidence in the ‘Pillar Hall’ – a rather impressive ‘presentation’ space next to the Grand Hall where the Allergy Show held their first ever trade conference this year. Between soaring wine-red marble pillars and under an extraordinarily ornate ‘Adam-esque’ ceiling Yannik Troualen from Mintel told us that we could relax because ‘freefrom’ was not a ‘fad’ but a ‘trend’. (A ‘trend’, I now know, is a market enthusiasm which is global, not local, and which grows over a number of years; a ‘fad’ is local to a particular market, grows extremely fast but then falls off again equally fast. So while the Atkins diet was a fad, ‘freefrom’ is a trend….) Yannik also quoted lots of encouraging figures to back up the ‘trend’ theory, including the fact that the main demographic for ‘freefrom’ is 16 to 35 year olds who, if they get well stuck into freefrom now are probably likely to stay with it for the rest of their days. Good news for all!
Yannik was followed by Louise Vacher from YouGov and Hamish Renton, a long term expert in freefrom. Both delved deeper into these trends and especially into that vital group of consumers who buy ‘freefrom’ not because they need to but because they believe that it is ‘healthier’. Hamish quoted a US survey which found that 41% of US consumers believed that gluten-free food (a particular obsession in the US) was good for everyone! You will be hearing more of this…
We then had a panel discussion chaired by Simon Wright between Amy Clinkard of Planet Organic who have just launched their own range of super-healthy (and super free-from) foods and two manufacturers – Chris Hook of the Newburn Bakehouse (Warburtons) and Lucy Wager of Pudology, a mini-micro business making gluten/dairy/egg/soya/nut-free desserts. And this was followed by…..
The launch of Allergy UK‘s new ‘Allergy Aware’ accreditation scheme for catering outlets. The scheme will provide allergen training for any shape and size of catering outlet and then ‘accredit’ them when they feel that have reached a safe competence. Check in here for more information.
The conference continued in the afternoon with a closer look at the catering side with Wan Mak from Sodexo, Catherine Hinchcliffe from 3663 Bidvest and a heated discussion over the ‘100 chefs’ who had accused the new regulations of ‘stifling their creativity’ and ruining their businesses’ – but sadly I was no longer there (I had been chairing the morning session) as I had gone off to the presentation the FreeFrom Skincare Awards!!
You can read all about presentation and the awards here on Alex’s Skinsmatter blog – and find all the winners, headed up Bloom Remedies with their Men’s Daily Moisture Care, on the SkinAwards site right here. This is Marie Hall from Bloom Remedies collecting the trophy from Janey Lee Grace.
We had had a great entry to the awards and also had a great turn out for the presentation – a really full hall and, as always at our ‘freefrom’ awards, lots of super excited winners! We also had some interesting categories this year. Apart from the winning Men’s Grooming, we had a new ‘Fresh and Fragrant’ category, a FreeFrom Achievement one (won by an amazing ‘All Natural’ soap) – and the usual flood of body butters (can butter flood?…), masks, scrubs, leave on face creams and, this year, lots of products focused entirely on your feet!! That they should be so lucky….
While I was fronting up the Skincare Awards presentation and Alex was running the live Twitter feed, back on the Freefrom Awards stand things were humming!!
This year we had lots of help on the stand so Cressida was able to spend much of the show trawling the aisles for new products and chatting to old friends. She found loads of both – just see her amazing report here…. Once he had recovered from his manic Tweeting during the presentation, Alex was also to be seen up and down and all over, congratulating the Skincare Awards winners and checking out any new products that our readers might find useful.
As you may know, my normal deal about going shows and exhibitions is that I be allowed to take a few hours off every day to check out the sites, the ‘kultur’, the parks and the coffee shops in the vicinity but this year – not a sniff!! (Although, to be honest, there is really not a lot in the vicinity of Olympia that would bear more than 3 minutes checking out anyhow…)
Between the Skincare Awards presentation (and goodness only knows what I am saying to everyone here – I look as though I have just seen my horse win the Grand National!), chairing the trade show on Friday morning and talking to exhibitors about our new FreeFrom Assured accreditation scheme which will launch in November, I scarcely even had time for a cup of Olympia’s worst!
And that does not include yet another launch that I was involved in on Saturday… This one was the new Action Against Allergy campaign focusing on allergy among the older population. Everyone worries, quite rightly, about allergies in children but actually the incidence of new allergies in the over 70s is climbing all the time. Not only is there no provision for allergy in older people but few older people will recognise that what they are suffering from may be an allergy and therefore they may be able to get help in managing it. The talk was given for us by the lovely Dr Glenis Scadding who will be working with us on the campaign over the next few months and years.
So an excellent three days all round and, as far as we were concerned, it was busy but relatively stress free. Rumour has it that the organisers had a somewhat more torrid time…. First the IT did one of its usual tricks and ten minutes before the conference kicked off it looked as though we might not have any PowerPoint presentations… (All was well in the end!)
Then one of the organisers, trying to prevent one of the greedier visitors from scooping up 20 goody bags instead of the one they were entitled to, got all 20 thrown in their face!
Finally they had to break up a fight in a particularly busy aisle between two large ladies attempting to squeeze past each other – one wearing a burqa and one who was somewhat anti-burqas! Tempers frayed, rude words flew, followed, we hear, by fists and the ladies and to be physically separated!!! Goodness me, what can we expect from Liverpool Allergy Show in November?….