months ago on the 1st October I wrote this blog post asking you all
to tell me which
gluten-free, dairy-free and other-free options – especially lunch options – you
would like to see the main supermarkets offer in 2013 – a kind of ‘free from
wishlist’. If you don’t remember it or haven’t yet read it, it’s worth doing
so, just to get your bearings before what follows, and to read some of the
imaginative suggestions and thoughtful feedback those following restricted
diets took the time to supply.
the 19th October, I wrote to six major supermarkets – Asda, Marks
& Spencer, Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose – to tell them of
the post, and the comments, and offering to send them a brief summary of the
suggestions, with an invitation to submit 500 words towards a follow-up
blogpost in response to them.
told them: “We’d be
interested to hear of, for instance, any plans for ‘free from’ lunches in the
new year, views and thoughts on the suggestions put forward, and whether any
might be in development. But any relevant comments and insight are welcome.”
I had planned
(and started to write) a detailed explanation of what happened over
the subsequent six weeks – the emails, the calls, the reminders, the conversations,
the responses, and so on – but changed my mind, not only because I didn’t have
a record of every single communication, but also as it would be quite
long-winded, and difficult to be fair to all six retailers were I to edit a
review of the process into a manageable length. I’m not withholding this
information for any other reason, and it may yet come out, either in the
comments or in a subsequent post, largely depending on what the response is to
So it’s enough
to say this for now: my dealings with all were friendly, most voiced a
willingness to take part, and I am genuinely satisfied all had sufficient
opportunity to respond to the issues put to them as communications were
established with them, indicating that no important emails had been lost or
phone messages unheard.
On the 16th
sent a polite final mail, explaining that while I was reluctant to set a
deadline for participation in something optional for what is essentially a
niche and specialist blog with limited reach, I felt I had to in order to make
progress. That was set for Friday 30th November, and I told my
contacts I’d give them a final gentle prod by phone a week or so before that,
if appropriate – but that I would leave them in peace after that. And I did so.
Did they respond?
See below. Did they answer the questions posed and tackle the issues raised?
You be the judge.
Asda submitted their response on 20th
November. They said:
“It is always
good to get feedback and we try and talk to customers as often as possible to
get their views on how we can improve the range at Asda so thank you for
“Space in store
is limited for Free From products so getting the right products for customers
is essential. In our own label range we are currently developing new products
for next year.
“The reason for
this is that we are confident that we can develop products that taste great,
in fact all the Free From products are tested by customers and have to be
approved by them before they are allowed into the range. The other focus for
us is around price and making Free From as affordable as possible and
driving the price of the product down as much as we can but at the same time
working closely with the suppliers to make sure the product is also great
“The new range
will include some of the ‘convenience’ options that some of the respondents
have mentioned. We also recognise that many people with intolerances are
looking for more ingredients based products that can be used to make meals for
the whole family. The other thing that our customers have told us they want is
to have more products that are free from more than one thing as many have
multiple intolerances eg. gluten, wheat and dairy. The other thing we are doing
is looking at all the current own label lines that are already in store to see
where we can improve the quality and taste.
“The new ranges
will be in May 2013 and will also include some new branded products as well as
the new own label lines.”
FreeFrom section online, click here.)
Sainsbury’s submitted their response on
30th November. Gemma Crump, FreeFrom Brand Manager, said:
ploughing through the post and the comments – a great bit of insight into what
people look for in terms of pre-made, gluten free lunch options. I hope you can
appreciate that we cannot share precisely what it is that we have planned for
the future in this category. That said, below are all the products that fit the
bill. As you can imagine, we are constantly scoping out opportunities to grow
and expand our offers.
“After all, we
are keen to reach our goal to be number one retailer for customers with
allergies or intolerances by the year 2020 (check out page five of our Best forFood and Health Factsheet, which tells you a bit more about our goals for our
We’re well on our way to achieving that goal, with the largest range of
freefrom products helping customers with allergies and intolerances already on
“Finally, in addition
to all the products below, we have a huge amount of products in our other
ranges (for example by Sainsburys), that are made without gluten and
without milk. These are listed in the product guidance lists to help ease the
shopping experience for people with allergies.
without further ado, the current selection of pre-made, gluten free lunch
options (and snacks of course!)
cherry and almond slices
branded sandwiches (chicken and egg)
(lunch time solutions you can buy in our grocery section)
· We offer
· Meals in
pouches: tomato and basil soup as well as freefrom chicken hotpot
cake slices (brownies, coffee and walnut, lemon, fruit, ginger)
and Nut bars
free chocolate bars (orange, crispy, and plain)
Pasta and meatballs
“Thank you again
for giving us the chance to respond.”
FreeFrom section online, click here.)
Waitrose submitted their response this
morning, 3rd December:
believes you can still have an enjoyable and varied diet if you are avoiding
gluten and our nutrition team has been working hard to launch a wider range of
gluten free foods than we ever have before, including with a tasty gluten free
mince pie for the festive season!
“We’ve also recently launched two new sandwiches, a Gluten Free Chicken Salad
and a Gluten Free Ham Salad for an effortless and tasty lunch.
“By incorporating products from our Waitrose LOVE Life Free From range with
foods that are naturally free from gluten, we aim to make it easy for our
customers to find and create delicious gluten free meals and snacks.
“The range in store currently includes LOVE Life Free From bread options, such
as our selection of white and seeded rolls, loaves and petit pains, white and
brown Ciabatta . You can try our LOVE Life Free From Porridge Oats to make a
warming breakfast, or to toast and use as a topping for homemade fruit
crumbles. Other breakfast or snack options include our LOVE Life Free From
plain and fruited English muffins, Hot Cross Buns, Scotch Pancakes and Fruit
“You can make some delicious pasta dishes with our LOVE Life Free From penne
and spaghetti. If you fancy making a home-made lasagne, you can use the LOVE
Life Free From Lasagne Sheets.
“If you want some gluten free sweet treats, we have a selection in the LOVE
Life Free From range to choose from, including Chocolate Muffins, Chocolate Chip
Cookies and Belgian Chocolate Brownies. For some traditional favourites we’ve
got Cherry Bakewells, Country Cake Slices, Date and Walnut Slices, Fruity
Flapjacks, Shortcakes and Oat and Raisin Cookies.
“If you shop or browse online, we have made it easier for you to identify which
Waitrose products are suitable for a gluten free diet by providing you with a
comprehensive list which you can download from our website.
“We will continue to work on expanding our Free From range to offer a wider
choice to our customers and our nutritionist team are always on hand to answer
any questions our customers may have. For those interested in learning some new
cookery skills as well as picking up some exciting new recipe ideas, we have a
Gluten Free cooking course every month at our Cookery School.
We also liaise with Coeliac UK
to ensure our products that are suitable for those avoiding gluten are listed
within the annual Food & Drink Directory.”
Allergy and Intolerance section is here.)
Morrison’s did not submit a response
FreeFrom section on their site is here.)
Marks and Spencer did not submit a
without wheat’ section is here.)
Tesco did not submit a response
(For Tesco Free
From online, click here.)
I’d like to
thank all supermarkets for dealing with me.
particularly to Asda and Sainsbury’s who responded to my initial approach very
quickly and positively.
No other comments
from me just yet, but I very much look forward to yours.
Labels: free from food, supermarkets