Yesterday I found out that this blog came second in the Free From Foods People’s Choice Awards, and after doing a bit of this…
… I had a look at the other categories. 😉 (By the way, thank you muchly for voting for me, it’s most appreciated!)
It was quite interesting to know what people voted for. I was quite surprised that so many supermarket own brands were listed, but I suppose that’s because they control what brands appear on the shelves and therefore what people are familiar with. I’ve had some awful products from supermarkets own Free From ranges. It makes me wonder whether some of the votes came from the quality of the products or the fact that the brand has a large variety in the category.
As a reviewer for the Can I Eat It? app, and of course on this site, I do get sent a lot of samples to try. They are largely very good quality. You can rest assured that my overenthusiastic ramblings about this or that cake mix are 100% genuine. But every now and then I come across products that are so awful, that come from the 1990s school of gluten-free food, that are so dry or crumbly that I can’t even finish, and I wonder, should I be naming and shaming this product?
I sometimes wonder if us coeliacs suffer from a sort of Stockholm Syndrome, whereby we are so deprived of certain products that any small step is celebrated with a kind of manic hysterical happiness. Remember when Domino’s Pizza announced they would be offering gluten-free bases? I think the coeliac Twittersphere collectively peed their pants that day.
When I tried it, I was not terribly impressed. But I don’t think it’s possible to write a pure review of a gluten-free product without seeing it in context. So many other things popped up in my head:
- Whooo I can now order pizza like normal people at parties!
- Yum yum don’t need to bother cooking!
- What an historic day! Let’s order loads so other places can see how popular and lucrative it is, and then other places will follow suit!
Somehow, all of these thoughts seemed far more significant than the fact that it was a pretty mediocre pizza for a huge price.
And perhaps that’s the case, perhaps the social stuff is more important than the quality. But as I tucked into my super crumbly roll today, I thought, then why is there such a different between brands?
Brands like Genius and Newburn Bakehouse have really managed to produce good quality gluten-free bread. It has some semblance of elasticity, and the slices are generally soft (at least, when you first open the bag! 😉 ) So it’s no surprise that they came 1st and 2nd in the Free From Foods awards under “Best Brand for Free From Bread”.
Yet other brands – particularly some of the European brands available here in the Netherlands – don’t seem to have discovered their secret yet. Their bread is AWFUL. And yet, it is widely circulated and bought. But what is the best way of rectifying this situation?
I don’t think the problem is simply the products. I think some of the problem stems from the fact that supermarket buyers and those responsible for ordering for small shops (e.g. health shops) are not gluten-free themselves. So they aren’t aware that a) it tastes nasty b) just because you are forced to eat gluten-free, doesn’t mean that you like nasty tasting bread and c) THERE ARE BETTER BRANDS OUT THERE
As a blogger, a few people read what I write (mostly my mum – hi mum!), and so I might have more influence than the average person. But even so I simply can’t bring myself to trash the worst offenders. After all, they provide variety in a somewhat limited market. If it weren’t for one brand, my local supermarket Free From section would be empty. Shouldn’t I be grateful that I can eat anything at all?
So my current approach has evolved to a place where I basically ignore the awful products and brands completely, and focus my efforts on supporting and cheering on the great products and brands. This is why in general my reviews are positive – because there are some really nice products out there! I just wish that people responsible for making buying decisions in shops and supermarkets would stop by my blog once in a while! 😉
What do you think, is this the right approach? Or do you like to name and shame?
sarah (sugarpuffish) says
I think brands need to be told what they are doing wrong (obviously in a nice way not nasty), regular folk don’t put up with rubbish food so why should free fromers? As for the awards congrats on coming 2nd, I know you’re a GF blogger but those awards were dominated by gluten free products, which frustrates me as someone with many allergies but not gluten free. I didn’t agree with Restaurant choices or Supermarkets.
The Happy Coeliac says
Yeah, there’s definitely a problem of other allergies being drowned out by gluten-free noise. Do you find that companies are not addressing your dairy-free needs enough? As a lactose-reducer (rather than a dairy-avoider) I’m not familiar with a lot of speciality “dairy-free” options. Is there anything you really struggle to get hold of?
You’re right, we shouldn’t put up with rubbish food – but we do! I wonder why that is!
Penny Fletcher says
There’s such a long way to go in increasing understanding and awareness about coeliac disease. I don’t buy preprepared products from the GF section because they are of such poor quality nutritionally.The nutritional content of products is even more important for coeliacs as when they (not me, but my two girls) occasionally get glutened they can’t absorb nutrients as well as they should for a period of time. I agree you need to keep things positive but it’s also important to work to let the poor brands know what’s being said about their products. How about doing comparisons between different brands and listing them in order of desirability? The bad guys will see they are bottom of the list without you having to openly say things like “yuk” “awful” “an alternative to polyfiller”.
Emma Clarke Conway says
I tasted a certain supermarket s apple pies and thought they were vile. My son, aged 6, tasted one and said it was lovely. “Really!” I said. “maybe the gluten people put something in to make it taste more like gluten” he suggested… My mother tasted it and translated his comment into “they be made it taste normal”.
Bottom line, I reckon I’m not missing out on apple pies!
The Happy Coeliac says
That’s true – some people seem to LOVE things I find absolutely repulsive. (A certain brand of gf mince pies comes to mind – I think it may be a pie phenomenon)
Apple pies done right, however, mmm…..
I haven’t yet found a decent bread which isn’t full of loads and loads of ingredients and additives which are clearly not healthy. However, the Pizza Express GF Pizza is wonderful in my opinion as well as Venice Bakery Pizza Bases. As for gluten free prepared baked pies and cakes in the supermarket, I’d rather do without or make my own.