Are the supermarkets reducing their free from foods? The shelves seem to be shrinking!

Our local Tesco (Flitwick) just had a refit. They squeezed in some more shelves (of junk), but somehow managed to reduce their free from section. Infuriating! When I was at the Allergy Show a few months ago, I met the Tesco people and they were busy showcasing all their new products and said they were launching a bigger range – but where are they? They did say that some were still in test, so why keep advertising them in their magazine?

Also, earlier in the year I contacted Humdinger Foods about the disappearance of their Dairy Free Chocolate Buttons.

feedingmyintolerantchild.co...

They said they had been delisted by Tesco because they were bringing their own chocolates out. A few weeks later Humdinger contacted me again and said that Tesco had changed their mind. Yet, not only have the Dairy Free brand failed to return, but our local Tesco has topped selling dairy free chocolate altogether! Has anyone seen either lately?

Even Waitrose(Ampthill) seems to be reducing their dairy free range. The gluten free seems to be holding its own, but apart from a handful of packs of Moo Free chocolate drops the dairy free confectionary has all but disappeared. They also used to stock our favourite dairy free biscuits but I haven’t seen them for ages.

We have a large Asda and Sainsbury’s about a 20 minute drive away (Milton Keynes), and these usually both stock a much more impressive selection. But sometimes, I prefer to shop online with those stores. I just don’t have the time to drag myself all the way over there and run the risk of the product I am looking for being out of stock, because even though they have the most shelf space, they seem to sell out of our key items, like the bread and chocolate. However, it seems that Sainsbury’s does not stock as much online as they do in store.

The last online order I placed with them was very disappointing. Most of my free from ‘usuals’ were showing up as out of stock and so I didn’t end up getting very much at all. So what is the solution? And more importantly why is this happening? You would think that from the insane amounts they charge for these items, that they are more valuable to them and would be more widely available and promoted.

So, for the moment it looks like I will have to buy my dairy free chocolates online. Good job I have discovered Love Lactose Free Life. lovelactosefreelife.co.uk/

This lovely lady has set up a website selling a lovely range of dairy free ‘goodies’. Chocolate for grown ups such as Booja Booja and Mulu, and the lovely Moo Free range for the little ones. Although I love those too and think the chocolate drops are great for baking with – the perfect ingredient for a chocolate chip cookie. So if you are like me and struggling to find your favourite goodies why not give this website a try. It has been set up by ‘one of us’ (a lactose intolerant lady) and I think we should all support her.

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  • i have noticed the free from range shrinking at my local asda, morrisons and in tesco it has vanished altogether, and yet, as you said they've made room for more junk! it's incredibly frustrating, my 3 year old has coeliacs and i relied on asda for his bread, pasta and pizza bases, etc, for a small store they had an excellent range, but they now have next to nothing, i now don't use asda now, but instead use sainsburys online delivery service, their free from range is excellent,

  • Hi, did you know you can get bread, pasta and pizza bases on prescription?? This may help for emergency times, know sometimes not as nice as the free from, but the pasta in particular I can't taste any difference. Hope this helps x

  • I think that the problem with the free from section of most supermarkets is that try to tick too many boxes ie appeal to as many people as possible and they do not really understand the needs of the free from consumer.

    Here's a link to archives from GFG on this subject and one glaring issue is oats and oat flour which's not tolerated by all coeliac. And look at all the additives in some gf foods in the free from section and I wonder free from what, nutrition!

    glutenfreeguerrillas.health...

    I occasionally fancy a packet of biscuits usually when I'm away from home and I find supermarkets a great disappointment because so many supermarkets free from biscuits use oat flour please see one of the posts from the archives. So I head for the local health food shop instead.

    The other problem that supermarkets have is that coeliac can get their basic's like bread and pasta on prescription so they have to aim at coeliac who do not go the prescription route who are often the wheat free coeliac who also avoid oats. They also need a high turnover and if a large proportion of free from buyers avoid their free from shelves they do not get the desired sales.

    This is my opinion based on how I see supermarket free from foods and I do not get food on prescription or buy their free from foods.

    Lastly the lactose free lady does indeed deserve support. So thanks for posting a link to her site.

  • The reduction in the free from section in most supermarkets ought to be welcomed if it reduces the amount of substitute cakes and fat-soaked carb which is piled up on those shelves. Pasta, flours, breads, ale, gums, stock, cereals - yes please but the cakes and biscuits etc are a waste of time and health

  • Hi DaveT, I totally agree with you - but it's precisely the pasta, flours, breads, stocks etc (I NEVER see ale or gums, I live in Scotland) that are so inconsistent. I never buy the biscuits or cakes - they taste too sweet for me and are so full of 'weird' stuff, I always bake my own when I feel the need.

    I have found this thread very interesting. I vary between Morrisons (reasonable free-from selection) and Tesco (very sad free-from selection at the 'Metro', slightly better-ish at the 'Extra') - but in general have found Asda to be much better, albeit they can vary too. I ONCE found gf breadsticks and have NEVER found them again...It's so odd the random nature of what is stocked and how often...

  • Agree with you on so many points and I know what you mean about those breadsticks. Zac loves them and they are a good snack option for him. He is a three year old boy that gets very hungry because he is very active and the gluten free foods are not all that filling. He cannot eat dairy, so I cannot give him a lump of cheese to snack on. So all that leaves is rice cakes and fruit and vegetables and I have been told by the dietitian to limit his intake of these because too much fibre can irritate his very sensitive gut. Little children do not need a high fibre diet.

    I know it may look from my posts that I am looking for replacement treats, but it is the staples that are what drives me to stores,(bread, breakfast cereals, dairy free milk). The other things are nice to haves and I have been working on a lot of home baking since I started my blog, as I agree the Free From foods look full of other scary ingredients and replacement junk - particularly the sausages. I have already blogged on my horror at the low meat content of the Tesco own brand Free From sausage. It was just stuffed full of non gluten starch - by why does it need so much starch? Debbie & Andrews and The Black Farmers sausages are naturally gluten free, because they just use a lot of good quality meat.

    My anger at the supermarkets is caused by so many issues, that I really feel that they need to understand what we are having to deal with. Everyone is so worried about the poor farmers getting nailed for the price of milk but what about us getting nailed on this food? It is breathtakingly expensive.

    We are not entitled to a prescription as the medics have decided to wait another year to test Zac again. Funny that! Saves the NHS a bit of cash for a while. I wonder how many other parents are fobbed off with that excuse. By not testing people they are not confirming cases and giving away anything. But that is a whole new rant and campaign!

  • I have had a problem with my local Tesco too! There is no consistency in what they stock. This is really frustrating when you go to get a specific product.

    One week they have gravy granules, the next they don't! Can't get GF cornflakes there either just now.

    I asked the manager about it the other day, he said they had no control over what came in to the store??! Quite unhelpful really!

    Letter to supermarkets head offices anyone?

    As I am coeliac & intolerant to wheat, dairy & egg I find there are actually very few things suitable in the free from range, but obviously would appreciate being able to get the products that I can use, consistently!

  • Several problems here...(ok I admit to inside knowledge)

    The buyers at the major supermarkets just dont understand the needs of the g/f market. We are different to other markets...and although we do eat all year around...the pressure on shelf space is acute.

    If the shelf space isnt making suitable financial returns,..then lines will disappear...and at this time of year...(sorry for what I am about to write..) Christmas is coming..so as they need to make space....guess where it can be from...

    Yes, it is often true that branch managers dont get any input into what store stocks.

    No they dont seem to understand re potential cross contamination.

    It is unlikely that we will ever see a full range of everything in one store...so we need to shop around.

    With the pressure on the restrictions on Prescriptions increasing, and so variable across the UK, ..the supermarket ranges need to be increased...or at least more focussed on real needs..rather than assumed needs...

    We have a lot of work to do.....

    Next...how do WE as a collective...want to do this??

    Apricot

  • Really appreciate all the comments. It is fascinating and I would love to do something here. I also want to try and drum something up with the other allergy sufferers - particularly dairy as this is a major issue for us. One of my dairy free followers has suggested we target the supermarkets through twitter. I was wondering if we need to set up a facebook page or develop an online poll or petition somehow? Any ideas or thoughts are very welcome.

    I am very happy to gather as many case studies as possible and collate them somehow. I have a few contacts in press and PR and if I can develop a 'story' I am sure they can sell it. So for starters - I would like to raise my hand and say if anyone wants to join me, please feel free to email me your story and experiences. Please take a look around my blog and perhaps sign up on there or follow me on twitter. I think I can set up a 'poll' on my blog, so will have a go and let you all know when it is ready.

  • If you look on linkedin and search on specific supermarkets (companies) you will come across some buyers of free from or specialist products - this may help to get contacts

  • Of course - not sure why I didn't think of that before - especially as I used to work in retail marketing. Been out of the 'game' a while. Spent the last 3 years dealing with nappies and poorly kids. Brain is not what it was!

  • have just emailed to 2 contacts I had for Asda & Tescos with link to site to generate interest hope it helps

  • Brilliant. Thanks so much. Really very grateful. Fingers crossed we can all start to educate them and help others. Kind regards.

  • Hi, Did you hear anything yet?

  • My local Tesco has recently not only increased the free from foods but has introduced a number of frozen GF items. It has also brought in 5 different Free From main meals (lasagne etc.) Seems I'm lucky here!

  • Same with my Tesco. It seems it must depend on the tesco branch. I have noticed at one Tesco near me that the vegetarian GF foods are sometimes in the vegetarian section and not the GF section.

  • shops tend to go on what they sell so if more weeks than others they don't sell the goods they will stop stocking the products....it's very annoying.

  • I think that the reason the sales may be depressed is that they are stocking the wrong foods and getting the wrong impression of the market. For instance, a lot of the gluten free foods are not also dairy free, yet I have come across many, many people who cannot tolerant either. So they don't buy a lot of the gluten free products because they are not suitable, and I believe the buyers are getting the wrong message. Same goes for all the people who also have egg or nut or soya allergy to deal with, they cannot buy the foods either. In my opinion, the majority of the so called 'free from' foods are only really suitable for people who can tolerate everything but gluten. So once you overlay all of the other intolerances and look at the ranges, they are probably only selling a fraction of what they could be selling.

  • I find GF shopping very hit and miss and can not just visit one supermarket to get what my daughter likes. Being a 10 year old she still wants cakes etc so that means a visit to Tesco for their chocolate muffins, whilst I like the flour for cooking with from Asda, whilst ice cream cones can only be got online from Ocado! Shopping does take so much longer as to get anything GF means a trip to a major supermarket although there are 3 small ones close by. I tend to buy lots in advance just because stock seems slow to be replenished. I just wish more mainstream GF products were available with clear labelling and do not get me started on food to buy whilst we are out and about..........

    Ps there is an early day motion set up to protect the prescribing of GF food for coeliacs can check if your MP supports it only 26 do so far!!!!!!

  • Hi, f.m.i.c, I live just up the road in Clapham.

    The Sainsbury's at Fairfield Park on the Clapham side of Bedford has a couple of shelves stacked with free from if you need cereals, cakes, sweets, cereal bars,bread, pizzas, pittas, hot cross buns, etc.

    I don't usually touch the stuff because it's too expensive imho and I get the essentials on prescription.

    I suppose if you're looking for treats for kids and can afford the prices it isn't bad.

    I buy my pure oats from there because they aren't available on prescription.

    I joined the Bedford NHS Gluten Free Food Supply scheme just over a year ago and pick up my monthly GF allowance from the dispensary in Sainsbury's. Can't you join the scheme?

    The frozen GF food section in the same store only has 5-6 products like pies and fish fingers. There are usually GF sausages in the chiller cabinets.

    One thing that annoys me though is that the beansprouts ( for chinese stir fries) have a gluten warning on them !

    Out of town, there is a Waitrose in Rushden, where they have a well stocked free from shelf. It is expensive, as you would expect from Waitrose.

  • Didn't know about the Bedford Gluten Free scheme. Will check that out. Sounds interesting. Thanks so much for all these tips in fact. Great stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks for the comment. Sounds like you are in a very similar situation to me. Like the idea of the MP thing. I think they are a pretty useless bunch but my MP is Nadine Dorries and she likes to stir things up a bit and get her name and face in the press. Will take a look! Thanks for the tip

  • Ours is a typical chinless wonder so not expecting any joy from him but feel you have to give it a try! If you google contact your mp a site comes up where you can put in your postcode and their contact details come up. It is early day motion number 83.

    Luckily for us Millie is only a coeliac and does not have further food intolerances but the impact is massive not only for her but for the rest of the family. I am finding eating out a total nightmare at the minute we seem so limited in where and what she can eat. Tried Frankie and Benny's yesterday when she had a friend over, no joy all they could offer were ribs off the adults menu so back to Nando's again for chicken and chips!!!

    We are lucky that we can afford to buy the 'expensive' GF food for her but to be honest she is 10 years old and wants to be like any other kid, that is what we want for her as well, so we would go with out so that she was catered for. However, she has spent today baking GF cakes but we do like the convenience of being able to buy ready made cakes etc.

    Off to eat GF banana cake now!!!!!!!!

  • Just had a look. Only 2 Conservative MP's amongst the 33. Interesting. Will definitely give my one a go. She loves to make a name for herself.

    Best of luck with Millie. It is so hard for children. It makes me so sad. As you say, they just want to feel normal. Zac is so little, yet already understands he can only eat special food and is so wary of food now that he is very fussy and his already restricted diet has been made very narrow by his 'fears'.

    I did everything you are supposed to do when weaning a child (baby led weaning, everything made from scratch and fresh) and he used to eat everything we put in front of him. But the elimination tests and food diaries messed it all up. He was only 2 when we started doing all that and it confused him so much.

    For instance he used to love peas and carrots and would eat them like other children might like sweets. But when we were going through his diet and eliminating all possible triggers, we were advised to try a low residue diet for a while (no vegetables with skins or seeds). He was so sad he couldn't have them any more. Then after a while seemed ok with it. Then a few weeks, we tried to reintroduce them one by one and guess what - he had forgotten he liked them. Will not touch them anymore. He says they give him a tummy ache. It is possible they did. We still don't really know what causes his tummy troubles - could be Crohns for all we know. Apart from one blood test, no-one has done anything.

    So that is how we got here today and that is why I feel I have to do something. His diet is just so restricted for so many reasons that I just have to find ways to reignite his interest in food. I do cook with him and involve him, but at the moment he is still fearful and frankly uninspired - because when we eat out there is nothing he can have, when he goes to parties there is nothing he can have and when we shop for food there is so little he can have. So it is going to take years of work to make him feel as passionate as I do about food and eating, but I am determined to get there and this is all part of my plan!

    Thanks so much for the support. Best wishes.

  • Ah poor Zac. When Millie was first diagnosed it was a relief to be honest as she had started to be quite poorly and she looked terrible. Do not blame yourself I too did everything right when MIllie was a being weaned as a baby, she has two siblings and touch wood they are fine. We struggled for a number of years with Millie's tummy problems I kept requesting a test to see if she was a coeliac but was fobbed off and if I am honest I let myself be fobbed off till it was just so obvious, and luckily for MIllie we went to the doctors when a locum gp was there and he straight away sent blood away to be checked. She had lost a significant amount of weight and kept having recurrent eye, ear and skin infections.

    The improvement in Millie after just a few days after eating GF was remarkable and in just under 2 months she put on half a stone, she still only weighs 3&1/2 stone! The surgery are still being awkward asking us to justify why we are changing brands on her prescription we are just trying to find out what she likes best! Millie has school dinners and we have to provide bread, pasta, pizza bases etc as well as paying £2 per day so if we were to loose her prescription it would hit us quite hard.

    I really feel for you and Zac it must be so hard and what I find frustrating is I know products could be made safe for MIlls to eat but instead I have to buy GF food at inflated prices RIce Crispies, Corn Flakes for example why do these include gluten. One product MIllie has is Outback biscuits they are dairy free and they come in little kid friendly bags so she can take them in to school for snack time and not feel different I get them from Waitrose when they are in stock!

    I would be happy to support you with any campaign as my initial euphoria at MIllie's improving health is being replaced with frustration!

    Xx

  • Sounds like your daughter has had a tough time. I do feel for you both. My little girl is tiny and I worry about her all the time. She looks more like a typical sufferer than Zac - but seems in good health apart from her asthma. She is also mildly dairy intolerant whereas Zac is suspected as having full blown milk allergy.

    I know what you mean about the breakfast cereals, why wheat gets on a rice or corn cereal is beyond me. But I have the same with cows milk protein - gets in the unlikeliest and most unnatural of places. This is another reason I think something has to be done. It is my personal hunch that a lot of our problems are being caused by wheat and dairy being used as additives in so many foods. Another reason why I have gone back to basics and am revisiting lots of old recipes and trying to recreate them safely for Zac.

    It feels like we have several possible campaigns here. My email address is mrsnicolaneal@hotmail.co.uk. Please drip me a line when you get a second and we can talk more. Thanks, N

  • Tesco removed Doves Farm Buckwheat and replaced with their brand of cornflakes - which was a box of crumbs!! wouldn't waste my money tbh!

    So I go to Sainsburys and Asda to buy it now and buy about 5 boxes at a time to have in stock.

  • Doves Farm products are awesome. You are right the supermarket own brand stuff is inferior. Like you I am starting to bulk buy but it makes my purse grown to shell out £30 on boxes of breakfast cereal etc. Oh well. The little chap is worth every penny.

  • did you spot the dairy free chocolate firm at the show - it was just opposite the sainsbury stand. they are going to supply quite a bit of chocolate to sainsburys the launch date is in september. I have also noted the absence of the buttons or at least going down to the chocolate rather than the white in my local tesco and sainsburys (Dunstable) I would agree that sainsburys tends to do more in the shops than online. Have you tried Plamil dairy free chocolate (there is a health food shop in Leighton Buzzard which stocks the sugar free one and a carob bar as well) not sure how far that is from you but you could try a shop in Bedford.

  • Thanks for these tips. I did see them at the show. They were great and I wish I could do more to help them improve their presence. I will try Plamil. Am hearing good things. LB is not far from me, so will wander over. Thanks again.

  • The early day motion to check whether your MP is supporting prescriptions:

    parliament.uk/edm/2012-13/83

  • Brilliant. Thanks so much.

  • I think also part of the shrinkage is that things are no longer just in the free from aisle. I buy Knorr stock cubes from the sauces aisle, chickpea and rice flours from the world food aisle, rice noodles from the world food aisle, GF beer and cider from the alchohol aisle. I don't buy bread but I have seen both the warburtons and genius in the bread aisle. I only buy natural gf sausages with more meat from the meat aisle. We keep saying that we want to be treated as normal so we are now being forced to read the labels as they spread GF products throughout the store where this is especially true is Marks and Spencer's.

  • That is a good point. Things are moving around in some stores and we would all do well to remember that some foods are naturally GF and will be in their 'natural' home. Like you I just buy the Debbie and Andrews sausages or Black Farmer. The Tesco own brand GF look awful. Not even tempted.

    On a separate note I received an email today from the Black Farmer, saying he has a meeting with Tesco this week and they are not very positive about the need for his product. Please take a look at his facebook page or website and perhaps leave a comment. I think he will present his supporters comments to Tesco. Would be very typical of them to delist such a fabulous product and replace it with something inferior of their own.

    Also, I have not seen anything in Marks and Spencer. What have you seen and where? Online or instore? Perhaps I am failing because I search on dairy free as well as gluten free.

  • M&S ordinary sausages are quite passible (nowhere near as good as black farmers) and are GF. They are usually included in the 3 for £10 and there are 20 of them. the page for both gluten and dairy is hard to find I have to do the following to get to it - any shortening would be appreciated by me!

    scroll right down to bottom of home page, in customer services click help, in ask a question box type food allergy, the first answer starts where can i find free from lists - click then there is a sentence starting Click Here (underlined) to the left of the page click how we can help and scroll down to the combined list for Gluten and Dairy. Hope this helps.

  • Hi not sure if this has been mentioned but I recently went to Morrisons and they have added new lines in their free from range and when I went on their website to find out more they have stated that they are introducing more items in time to Chritsmas. So at least 1 supermarket seems to care!

  • Thanks so much for this comment. I will check them out. My mother in law has a Morrisons local to her and has bought Zac a few bits in the past and all were perfectly good. To be honest, I am pretty sure all of the supermarket own brand free from foods are made in the same place somewhere anyway. Most of them taste and look the same. Thanks for sharing the tip, and according to my mother in law, they are bit less scarily priced too. Best regards.

  • I went to Morriosns the other day asked if they had GF sandwiches, they replied not on the shelf, but they coould make me a sandwich and the assistant promptly took aGF loaf from the shelf and made me a sandwich. I was so pleased as so many times when you are hungry for something savoury most supermarkets will offer nothing. Well done Morrisons keep it up!

  • Marks and spencers actually have a wide variety. At my local Marks they gave me a list to use. Nothing is in a special area they are with the ordinary range so bread and cakes in the bread aisles, count on us ready meals , sausages , bakes in frozen etc. You have to read the labels.

  • This is the M&S liink but there is no special section.

    health.marksandspencer.com/...

  • Tesco have added a range of sauces (Atkins and Potts) and soups to their GF range which are OK, I particularly liked the Korma sauce, good for when you are in a hurry. They also stock GF Lager and Beer which are quite tasty. M&S are a bit hit and miss, as I travel with work being able to buy a GF sandwich at a Simply Food helps but not all stores seem to stock them so often make my own and hope they survive the journey!

  • Thanks so much for this. Was not aware of those sauces and soups. Will look out for them. Best wishes.

  • Hi All, just a minor point in the midst of all this. Why don't manufacturers make "child friendly" dairy free yoghurts? What I mean by that is something like tubes of soya or rice milk yoghurt or little yoghurts with characters on? My daughter is a 3 year old coeliac and we are currently also exploring whether she is dairy intolerant as well, given the hard time we're having getting her sorted out. She's not daft and sees a tub of Alpro Soya a mile off - I can't even get away with giving it to her out of the tub and just putting it in a bowl! And it's hard because I feel so bad giving my son a "proper" yoghurt whilst my daughter sits there deprived and knowing full well she is being treated differently. Have any mums out there found any products that I don't know about yet?! Thank you! Xx

  • Very, very good point. My little man has been dairy free since a baby and a 'petit filous' sized pot of something for a dairy free babe is definitely needed and to my knowledge not yet out there. An option is to try and create your own dairy free desserts with fruit purees mixed in to a yoghurt perhaps? Best of luck. GF is hard enough but when you add dairy as your problem, it is a nightmare to cater for your child. Best wishes.

  • For a while I could find GF Farleys rusks and I really loved them ( not my waistline !) but they have disappeared. This begs the question --that if gps are not testing babies for coeliac why are there gf rusks, is it again a case of where you live?

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