I say finally because, way back when I first got involved with allergy, the only place that you could buy any sort of ‘freefrom’ food was in health food stores. But as freefrom developed so the health trade seems to have got somewhat left behind. Although you could still get your Doves Farm flour and your soya yogurts in your local health store, the growth in ‘freefrom’ was being driven by the supermarkets, on line stores such a Goodness Direct and independent manufacturers, large and small, selling on line and through local outlets.
This was a particular shame as far as H & B was concerned as they had an excellent nationwide network of high street shops. These would have been perfect for getting some of the smaller freefrom brands out into local towns and more rural areas which, otherwise, could only hope to access ‘freefrom’ via the internet. But that is now all in the past! How come?
Well, as so often happens, as a result of market awareness coinciding with a senior executive with a personal interest in allergy. Even the health trade could not really have gone on ignoring the rise in freefrom for ever but it took the fact that Emma Cockerill’s baby daughter (Emma is Holland & Barrett’s Sales and Procurement Director) was diagnosed with an anaphylactic allergy to dairy, eggs and soya that actually spur them into action.
And spurred they most certainly have been. A huge new section in their flagship Chester store, to be followed, we assume by others around the country. A great big website with lots of stock and some very fancy freefrom filters to allow you to choose exactly which allergens you wish to exclude – and serious engagement in freefrom in general. We were delighted that they decided to be last minute sponsors of the ‘Snack Bars’ category in the FreeFrom Food Awards last week, and they are making very active efforts to involve the freefrom social media world in what they are doing to get that word out there as fast and as far as possible.
Unfortunately I could not go to the launch of the Chester store as it was literally the day after the FFFood awards presentation and we were up to our eyeballs in press requests and logos. But Ruth of What Allergy? made it up there and you can read all about it on her What Allergy? blog here.
Well done – and welcome to H & B!