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?