I was recently invited to attend an event for free from bloggers at Morrisons HQ in Bradford. It’s the first event I’ve been able to attend and despite the nerves, I was really looking forward to it. I wasn’t sure what to expect (all I knew was that it was a free from event at Morrisons HQ!) but had been assured that we’d be given lunch and would be asked for some feedback on free from foods. I can’t describe how strange it is as a coeliac to be able to go out somewhere knowing that you’re going to be able to eat safely and don’t need to carry lots of snacks and have plans of various places you can grab food from in an emergency! After a slight issue with taxis, myself and some other bloggers made it to Hilmore House, the home of Morrisons HQ.
We were welcomed by Stefanie Downey, the free from buyer for Morrisons. She explained her role and how important it is for her to get customer feedback on current and potential future free from products in Morrisons. We were introduced to some new products which will be launching in a few weeks I believe (more when they’re launched – I really hope they make it to my local store!), and shown how Morrisons decide which free from products to stock and how they should appear in store.
The Morrisons staff were all keen to hear from us so after some interesting discussion, we were taken to the development kitchen for Christmas dinner. Yes, Christmas dinner. In August. The head chef pointed out that by this time of year he’s actually pretty much finished Christmas as all the products have been developed, tested, refined, and are now ready to be produced and packaged and put in stores. For our Christmas dinner we had prawn cocktail (with the sauce being made using free from tomato sauce and free from mayo), traditional roast dinner with turkey and lamb with a peppercorn crust (with gluten free stuffing and Yorkshire puddings), and Christmas pudding with soya cream. We were also given a sample menu which had other options including salted caramel profiteroles (much more to my taste than Christmas pudding so will definitely be looking out for these!). Morrisons have other free from Christmas products planned too, including Christmas spiced cookies which were delicious.
After lunch we had some samples of other foods, including those from free from suppliers such as Genius, Schär, Heck, Gosh, Perk!er, and Alpro (more to come on some of these brands!). I also got to do a 90 second plank to enter a competition! Genius shared some of the difficulties they experience baking gluten free, and had some of the flours and thickeners they use and got us to try them out to see how they respond to being mixed with water. They showed us some really interesting photos of what happens if you use just one of the gluten free flours in place of regular flour, which was fascinating to see! It certainly explains why sometimes you get very dense gluten free bread and sometimes you get one with massive holes in! Genius use a mix of flours to try to make the most of each of the properties, but also explained that this does mean the mixes can sometimes be inconsistent depending on the time of year and the crop. It certainly opened my eyes to another reason why gluten free food can be so much more expensive – not only are the ingredients more expensive and potentially more difficult to source, but there is also more wastage due to inconsistencies. I always really enjoy chatting to free from suppliers about their products, and the people behind the brand.
All in all it was a really excellent day. I enjoyed meeting other coeliacs and free from bloggers, learned a lot about how free from products make it to supermarket shelves, ate some yummy food, and was even given some samples to take home. Huge thanks to Morrisons and the other suppliers for being part of a really enjoyable day 🙂
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