Cressida and I have just had a fab weekend! We have been at the Liverpoool Allergy and FreeFrom show – right here in the Albert Dock in the centre of Liverpool…..
Now for me to say that I have had a fab w/e at a show is quite something as, although I do realise that they are a great way to meet people and find new products, I cordially loathe shows and exhibitions – hot, sweaty, crowded, noisy – and am only dragged there under strong protest. But on this occasion, although it was crowded, a bit sweaty and most definitley noisy, even I had a good time!
What helps in Liverpool, I must admit, is that the show takes place in the modern and relatively airy Convention Centre on Albert Dock, just next door to the Tate Gallery and the Liverpool Museum – if you feel you need a dash of culture to spur you along. More to the point, being in the dock, it is right on the river so you can also go and get a breath of invigorating Mersey-Irish Sea air whenever you feel the need, seasoned with a Costa coffee at distinctly more reasonable price than is on offer in the convention centre! Another pleasure of the Liverpool Allergy show is the lovely Liverpudlians. Friendly, chatty, interested and always good for a laugh!
Everybody who is anybody was of course there, from the big fish (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Newburn Bakery, Genius, Glutafin, Juvela, Nairn’s, Udi’s) to the medium size (Perkier, Venice Bakery, Amy’s Kitchen, Big Oz, Eskal, Koko, Daura Damm) to innumerable mini companies, many trying out the freefrom market for the very first time. The show even had its own serious hunk! Not, you may be surprised to hear, promoting an exercise machine or a raw superfood, but a freefrom milk-making machine! He is Hopps (or is he Woolf?) of Hopps & Woolf who, while at uni, invented a sort of mini Thermomix – a blender in a kettle – for making almond or any other sort of freefrom milk!
Because the Liverpool show is very food (rather than skincare) focused Alex was not with us this year so we could devote ourselves entirely to food! And Cressida did – so I am not even going to go there. You will find her full report on the new and upgraded freefrom foods that she discovered right here on FreeFrom FoodsMatter. I, meanwhile, spent my time ‘surveying’ both our colleagues and the show’s visitors.
Our colleagues because we have a new scheme – a ‘freefrom’ accreditation – and I wanted to figure out whether it had any traction with freefrom manufacturers and retailers. We have been asked a number of times whether would set up a freefrom accreditation/endorsement scheme covering all freefrom food – not just gluten, as Coeliac UK already does that very efficiently with its Crossed Grain symbol – but dairy, egg, nut, sesame etc. We are already working on how it might be done but I was keen to talk to those who might use it about how they would feel. So I was very encouraged by a generally pretty enthusiastic response. More on that one anon no doubt…
I was also keen to findout what awareness there was among the general ‘freefrom’-using public of the FreeFrom Food Awards. So, for two hours on Sunday morning, I parked myself at the bottom of the escalator where the public come into the show with a FreeFrom Food Awards roundel and asked everyone who came in whether or not they were aware of the awards and had ever seen the awards’ winning logo on any of the products that they bought. Over the two hours I spoke to 167 families and when I got back to the stand to tot up my ticks and crosses, I was very pleased to discover that 35% of those I had spoken to were aware of the awards before they came to the show! This was particuarly gratifying as the majority of the visitors were coeliacs who tend to be focused on gluten rather than the wider range of ‘freefrom’ foods.
So then, being a sucker for punishment, I went back an hour before the show closed and asked another 64 families leaving the show whether they had notice the awards’ logo on any of the stands as they went round the show. (Awards winners tend to display their winner’s logo on their stands anyhow and we offer anyone who is involed in the awards a generic FreeFrom Food Awards roundel to dislay during the show.) And of my exit sample, 66% did remember seeing the logo up there although they did not necessarily remember on which stand they had seen it. So, a good result for our ‘branding’ efforts!
Well, so much for the show…. But since Liverepudlians sensibly like to get the business of the day over early and then go home and play, the Liverpool show closes at four in the afternoon, which allows one nearly half a day to enjoy the other delights on offer! So, for the delights of Liverpool, see the next blog….