There is no doubt that 2013 has been a year of ‘firsts’ – not only the first ‘freefrom’ trade exhibition in Europe but the first FreeFrom Restaurant awards (yet to happen), the first foray of ‘freefrom’ into vending, the first time that Foodsmatter Twitter followers have exceeded 10,000, and, in purely personal terms, the first time that I have been on an airplane in over five years! (Because of my electrosensitivity I had been very unwilling to subject myself to the high levels of electromagnetic radiation to be found in airports – whatever about the EMR when I got to the other end!) So a two day trip to Freiburg at the beginning of June ticked off several of those ‘first’ boxes very satisfactorily. (And before anyone questions one of those – yes,I had flown to Cyprus at the beginning of May, which was the crunch test – but this was the first ‘business trip’…)
The first run of an exhibition is always quite scary. Taking a stand is expensive of itself and when you have to transport those who are to run it to Germany and accommodate them as well – yet have no idea who may, or may not, come to the show, or what business you may do – it is all quite risky. However, an encouraging number of ‘local’ freefrom manufacturers had stuck their necks out along with an interesting range of Europeans – from Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Hungary, Sweden and even some visitors from the US including Boulder Brand’s Udi’s who are just about to launch in the UK. Take a look here at the exhibitor list to get a flavour of who was there. And there were a whole load more (like me) who had gone to take a look without actually exhibiting.
For us it was a great opportunity to network with other manufacturers, something which is really not possible in the hurley burley of the Allergy and FreeFrom Show. We rediscovered some (such as Big Oz cereals, Moilas pizzas from Finland and Roleys from the Netherlands) who we had not seen for years, met up with our ‘regulars’ and chatted to loads and loads of gluten-free bread, cake and confectionary makers from around Europe – plus yet another excellent gluten-free bread from Ireland, Pure Bred, currently selling like hot-cakes in Australia and Canada and soon to come to a supermarket near you – although they were being very coy about which one…
There was also an interesting seminar programme including a presentation from Mintel on freefrom trends. It seems that the majority of ‘freefrom’ers fall into the 25–40 year old bracket which means both that they are likely to have made a lifestyle choice with which they will stick – and that they are extremely computer/internet literate and contribute significantly to the freefrom on line community. Another presentation by Sarah Sleet, CEO of Coeliac UK, laid out some exciting possibilities for freefrom in food service – on which she will be expanding at our FDIN FreeFrom in Food Service conference in mid September (details going out very soon).
All ways round, a very useful trip as far as we were concerned – a view shared, I gathered, by most other attendees and by most of the exhibitors. We look forward to 2014….
For me, however, the trip had an added bonus – Freiburg…. Having over-estimated the size of the exhibition I had also over-estimated the amount of time I needed so I found myself with a generous afternoon free to explore the town.
In my ignorance I had assumed that the exhibition space would be situated in a charm-free zone such as the NEC…. But far from it. A short taxi ride from the expo site and you are into the most delightful little south German town whose origins date back to 1120! Although it was badly bombed b y the RAF during WWII, it has been rebuilt according to the mediaeval design and you would never know. (This is Konvikstrasse in which was situated the excellent restaurant in which the FreeFrom Expo had arranged dinner for us on the ‘middle’ night of the show.)
Freiburg nestles right at the feet of the Black Forest. The back of my hotel literally gave onto fields and the hills which loom over the town and on the top of which perches the Schlossberg, once and massive fortress but now a lovely walking park with a fantastic view over the town. Not only does the Dreisam river run through the town (I had a very pleasant lunch at a restaurant by its side) but, in south German fashion, almost every street has a stone open rill running down between the pavement and the road flowing with crystal clear water. Even better, the whole of the centre of the town, including the humming cathedral square and open market, is a car-free zone, there are loads of disastrously tempting clothes and food shops – and…. it is the sunniest and warmest town in Germany!!
Yes, you got it! Roll on Free From Food Europe 21014 – I can’t wait to get back!