Bread to Bread: Crumpets

2 03 2014

Who doesn’t love a bit of crumpet?! Well, until recently, coeliacs didn’t, but now we are able to chose from two products to satisfy our elevenses hankerings! Second breakfast will never be the same again. Which fared best in our ‘trademark’ Bread to Bread challenge? Crumpets from Genius or Marks & Spencer? Get your lashings of butter ready…

crumpets

I’ll be honest, it’s been so blinking long since I had a normal crumpet, I only vaguely remember what they *should* be like! Cue advice from the interwebs on what makes a perfect crumpet! We reckon it is:

  • A good honeycomb structure
  • Light and fluffy texture
  • Butter Absorb-ability
  • Flavour
  • Cost per crumpet

Nice bit of crumpet: Genius
£2.19 for 4 from Asda
I have a love/hate relationship with Genius, so wasn’t expecting to like these, but it seems that their proficiency at holes in bread (cough) also translates to crumpets, with yummy consequences! These have a really good honeycomb to them, and were crisp on the outside and light and fluffy when toasted. They are dairy free, but I added a lump of proper butter which dutifully soaked all the way through to the bottom –  it’s not a proper crumpet if you don’t get messy fingers!  The downsides were that they were a little oily to touch when pulled out of their somewhat medicinal packaging, and the flavour is somewhat yeasty; but all in all an excellent bit of crumpet.
GF Nomability: 8/10

Crumbs, Pet: Marks & Spencer Made Without Wheat
£1.79  for 4 from Marks & Spencer
We’re off to a bad start – they feel like little spongy bricks, and suffer from the classic gluten-free problem of not toasting very well (they are either warmed up or burnt); however despite being a little ‘cakey’ in texture, the bubbles are there and they have a gluteny stretch to the dough and a nice moisture.  The flavour is better than the Genius crumpet – faintly sweet and ricey – so not a bad product.
GF Nomability: 6/10

Want to see more Bread to Bread challenges? See my blogs on granola, wraps and porridge pots.





Meet the Manufacturer: Nature’s Path

2 03 2014

Time for another in our new series looking at what goes on behind the scenes at some of our favourite gluten free brands. Today we talk to Ian Hills, Head of UK Marketing for our breakfast favourites, Nature’s Path. Nature’s Path is a North American family-owned company. I first came across their products during a ski trip in Canada – fuelling up for the day on the slopes on yummy granolas and maple-infused treats made was one way this trip was very different from a European one!

Ian Hills, Head of UK Marketing for Canadian brand, Nature's Path

Ian Hills, Head of UK Marketing for Canadian brand, Nature’s Path

Here in the UK you probably know them for their cereals in the supermarket, or perhaps their fun branding. As they launch new products, we wanted to know what it takes to bring a North American success to the UK market, and the path from children’s author to cereal enthusiast, via icecream!

What is your background and how did you come to be interested in working for a gluten free manufacturer?

For me the acid test for any brand I’ve ever worked on is do I really believe? Many brands exist but don’t live. Other brands posture, preen and mimic or worse still pretend to be something they’re not. As someone who was part of the original Ben & Jerry’s (from 4 people into a portakabin to post Unilever) I know what it’s like to work on a brand that’s not afraid to stand out from the crowd, a brand that prides itself on its quirkiness and that puts social responsibility at the heart of it’s manifesto. Over the years I worked in the organic sector, with a number of free-from start ups and a variety of personality-packed underdogs. In 2005 I even wrote a children’s book, The Toxic Toadburger Conspiracy, that repackaged the very real issues of addictive fast food and obesity as a full-throttle kids story.

From children's author to 'cereal enthusiast'

From children’s author to ‘cereal enthusiast’

I’m quite clear in my mind that if Ben & Jerry’s had gone into breakfast cereals they would have been Nature’s Path which is the greatest compliment I can bestow on any brand.

Tell us a little bit about Nature’s Path – what is the history of the brand and it’s involvement in the UK gluten free market?

Nature’s Path is a Vancouver-based business has been championing organic, gluten-free cereals in North America since 1985. As far as the UK is concerned we’ve been around far longer than you might imagine, first cutting our teeth in the independent health food sector some 8 years ago, although our 1st supermarket break came in 2010 when Waitrose bought into our vision of championing a brand determined to escape the worthy, ‘brown paper bag’ look adopted by so many of our contemporaries. From the outset Nature’s Path recognised that in order for gluten-free to truly succeed it needed to offer ‘mainstream appeal.’ We were one of the first brands to adopt a more vibrant look and approachable voice, which sits comfortably with the fact that after all these years we remain a fiercely independent, family-owned business.

There has recently been an increase in the number of Nature’s Path products available in the UK. Does this reflect a new direction for the brand?

That’s an interesting observation because in reality we’ve been a significant voice within the UK gluten-free scene for some while now. In our original guise we did have a number of curious identities sitting loosely under one roof so you might not have realized that they were in fact all us. Despite being a Canadian brand we felt it was imperative to champion a bespoke UK identity from day.1 recognizing the fact different markets have very different outlooks and priorities.

Another reason that we might look bigger than others, is that whilst they adopt a scatter-gun approach to their product ranges, we knew from the outset that breakfast cereals was our specialist subject (a cereal specialist, not a serial dabbler) and so our portfolio huddles closely together on shelf.

The Ben & Jerry's of breakfast (Are you saying we're not allowed ice cream for breakfast? ;))

The Ben & Jerry’s of breakfast (Are you saying we’re not allowed ice cream for breakfast? ;))

Nature’s Path is originally a Canadian brand. What do you see as the main similarities and differences between the UK and Canadian/North American gluten free markets?

North America, despite being a little behind Europe and the UK in the sphere of food & drink is actually about 5 years ahead when it comes to gluten-free. The big trend over there which is now beginning to gather momentum over here is adopting a range of more indulgent offerings whose appeal extends beyond hard-core coeliacs to conscientious healthier eating types.

What do you see as Nature’s Path’s place in the UK market? Who do you see as the main customer groups?

Cereal enthusiasts, its as simple as that, our goal has always been to be best in class not best on shelf. We appeal to everyone from organic believers and ancient grain enthusiasts to those of us simply looking to lose a little weight or adopt a less gluten-rich lifestyle.

What can we expect to see from Nature’s Path in the coming year?

The completing of our breakfast puzzle that has been missing something hot (Hot & Steamy porridge oats) and something portable (Nice & Nobbly granola bars)

New products for 2014 - we can't wait to try.

New products for 2014 – we can’t wait to try.

And finally, Gluten Free B loves breakfast. When you’re not munching Nature’s Path products – what do you like to have for breakfast?

I do like my golden syrup flavoured porridge although I will convert in a few weeks to our Maple flavoured offering (Hot & Steamy) as this with a banana and a light smattering of cashews is truly heavenly.

Nature’s Path cereals are available at most major supermarkets throughout the UK.

See how Nature’s Path granola fared in our Bread to Bread challenge, or try our recipe for Maple Mallow Squares.

Or check out more ‘Meet the Manufacturer’ interviews.





The Hand & Flowers, Marlow

26 02 2014

I’m sure you don’t want to know the ins & outs of everything I ate at this much-celebrated ‘pub’ in the heart of the home counties; so to match the ‘no-frills’ chunky furnishings I will give you a no-frills view of how they handled gluten free.

Photo 25-02-2014 13 52 15

Pigeon, with home-made gluten free sausage and one seriously intense carrot!

The phrase ‘oh you’re really intolerant?’ makes me a bit nervous when ordering & asking about the chip fryer, but I didn’t need to worry. Toasted gluten free bread was at the ready, they’d already thought of separate butter. Sadly no “complimentary battered whitebait then no formalities” (?!) for me, but they did serve an alternative. The staff were, of course, well-versed in all of the components of the menu, immediately identifying what I could and couldn’t have, and easily adapting lots of the menu for me. It was nice not to be rushed over lunch despite the ’2 hour booking’.

Dishes are on the rich and deeply flavoured side, and weren’t always quite what I expected, portions are by no means excessive. The Hand & Flowers carrots are intense with spices and all dishes are heavy on the seasoning. (Seriously, an intense carrot!). The signature chips are, pleasingly, on for coeliacs, although they are almost more like croquettes than chips. There are a few gluten free puddings, but I ordered the ice cream off-menu and it was to die for.

All in all, gutsy yet refined at the same time, and an (earthy, pubby) breeze for the gluten-free.

GF Nomability: 9/10

Food: 8/10

Service: 10/10





Maple Mallow Squares

25 02 2014

People are cottoning on that gfreeb likes breakfast best of all the meals, so we have found ourselves with quite a stash of breakfast products in the kitchen! Nature’s Path kindly sent over some of their cereals to try, but there’s only so much cereal we can eat in bowl-form, so we have turned our hands to things we can bake and clear up in the length of a baby nap. Hope you enjoy this slightly grown-up twist on a childhood favourite.

Photo 22-02-2014 16 30 41

Maple Mallow Squares

Takes 30 mins (including cooling time), Makes approx. 12 squares.

Ingredients:

  • 30g salted butted, plus a little extra for greasing the tin
  • 180g bag of marshmallows (check they are gluten free – we used Eskal)
  • 200g of Nature’s Path Maple Sunrise cereal
  • 30g chopped roasted pecans

Method:

  1. Lightly grease a 25 x 25cm square cake tin.
  2. If you have large marshmallows, chop them into smaller (1cm) pieces with sharp kitchen scissors.
  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat, until it is slightly browned.
  4. Add in the marshmallows, and stir constantly until melted, smooth & glossy.
  5. Turn off the heat, and stir in the cereal and pecans, gently & quickly – this is going to get sticky!
  6. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin, and press down using greased greaseproof paper. Leave to set.
  7. When set, cut into bite-sized squares and store for 2-3 days in an airtight container.

Photo 22-02-2014 15 44 42

Still more cereal? Why not also see my recipes for breakfast muffins and granola?





Meet the Manufacturer: PERK!ER™

4 02 2014

PERK!ER™ foods  are one of the new kids on the gluten free block, but have achieved enormous amounts since their launch in late 2012 – with listings for their breakfast products and treats now in many of the major retailers.

As big fans of the brand, Gluten Free B was pleased to catch up with one of the founders, Ann Perkins, about her perspective on the gluten free market, the hard work that goes into bringing a home-grown brand to the high street, and what goes on behind the scenes at the mysterious ‘Yummery’!

PERK!ER founders, Steve & Ann "bringing delight to the gluten free market"

PERK!ER founders, Steve & Ann “bringing delight to gluten free eating”

You’ve had a very successful year or two, what have been the highlights?

By far the response from our customers and fans to the brand and product range, especially the banter on Twitter and Facebook, as well as the personal messages and the people we meet at shows.

We set out to do something different, to bring delight to gluten free eating. Steve and I quit our jobs to do this, with the aim of trying to offer something unique so it’s great to see when we’re getting it right.

The response from the 3 major retailers who now stock PERK!ER™ products (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda) and Whole Foods Market has also been fantastic, as well as the online retailers (Ocado, Amazon & Goodness Direct) as it gives us national availability.

Showing off one of my PERK!ER purchases from the Allergy  Show

Getting the fans involved: I show off one of my PERK!ER purchases from the Allergy Show

What changes have you seen in the gluten free market since launching PERK!ER™?

The market changes from week to week. The range of products has expanded with new things like wraps on the market and different brands, which as a gluten free consumer (Ed: Ann is a diagnosed coeliac) on the market is great.

It’s important for us to be unique though, and we still feel we are unique with PERK!ER™.

Our consumers come from all kinds of backgrounds – vegans, healthy eaters, sports professionals, people who are gluten-intolerant, and of course coeliacs like me.

Increasingly people who want to eat healthily pick up our products as the cereals are low-sugar (less than half what’s in Special K). That low-sugar flavour isn’t what most people are used to, but it will be interesting to see if the current focus in the media on reducing sugar in your diet has an impact on what people eat.

There’s still a lot to be done on people’s perception that gluten free products aren’t as tasty or that the texture isn’t there. It’s not the case with our treats, as we’ve been told that non-gluten-free snafflers like them just as much! Our core market is people who need to avoid gluten, for whatever reason, but of course we want to produce things that are the most delicious on the market, full-stop.

Products developed with a 'Guinea Pig Network' - who feature on the packaging!

Products developed with a ‘Guinea Pig Network’ – who feature on the packaging!

Where do you look for product inspiration?

We look in many places for new product inspiration – by listening to our consumers and fans, as well as new people coming across PERK!ER™ for the first time.

Steve and I never switch off from PERK!ER™ – whether it’s looking online, in shops, cookery books or tips from friends and family – inspiration can come from anywhere.

We are quite harsh on ourselves when we make a new product – is it truly unique or a ‘me too’ product? PERK!ER™ is a self-funded start up so we have an added incentive to make it a success – we don’t want to put things out there that aren’t going to work, as it’s our savings!

The first ideas and prototypes for new products are made in the ‘Yummery’. We check these out with our ‘Guinea Pig Network’, as well as testing on friends and family. The next stage is to find a partner who can produce this at scale, and to our specification.

What do you think the secret ingredients are to gluten-free high street success?

Having professional high-standard partners has been an important factor in success with retailers. We need to make sure our products still bring delight and enjoyment when they are produced at scale, but also from a food safety point of view, as you’d expect, we take making sure things are definitely gluten free very seriously – all of our products are tested.

With both of us having experience in the industry, we have been able to talk the right language to retailers, and have an idea what they are looking for and can respond to those needs.

We’ve continued to push quality – making sure there are generous portions of fruit, or gingerbread in the breakfast products for example, but producing gluten free food is a costly business – the ingredients are expensive, processing is labour intensive. We always try to produce products at a price people can afford, and it helps that we keep overheads low – we still work from home. In fact we work 7 days a week and late into the night!

How have things changed since PERK!ER™ hit the supermarkets?

We started market testing at the Allergy & Free From Show in 2012 – at that point our treats were all handmade in the Yummery and Steve baked the bread! We hand packaged everything, were cutting out labels with nail-scissors and my mum spray-painted the crates with our logo. When Tesco initially approached us we had to admit we weren’t quite ready to scale!

PERK!ER™ is still very much a home-grown business, but how we spend our time has changed. I manage social media and the relationships with our retailers and partners. Steve manages orders and suppliers. We are both continually coming up with new product ideas, and still have to get down in the details – if samples are needed I might be taking them in my car!

Are there any compromises you have had to make?

Some products just haven’t been good enough, and we’ve had to be honest about that, so they haven’t been launched, and when we first produced the treats they had a very short shelf life, which just won’t work for gluten free in a supermarket, so we’ve had to change the products slightly (Ed: notably the ‘popping’ has had to go from the tiffin!); but other things haven’t changed. The gingerbread is still very much a labour of love – the pieces in the porridge are still handmade in the Yummery to our original recipe.

Expanding the range: new flavour porridge pots launched in 2014

Expanding the range: new Golden Syrup Porridge launched in 2014 “perfect for on the go”

What are your future ambitions for the brand?

Growing of course! We are still very small, it is still just Steve and myself. We are not yet as widely available as our fans ask us to be. It’s also going to be a good year for new products – so look out if you’re part of the Guinea Pig Network! We want to continue to bring delight to gluten free eating. It’s early days but we’ve had a fast, amazing start.

And finally, Gluten Free B loves breakfast – when you’re not munching porridge, what’s for breakfast?

I’ve just discovered Alpro hazelnut drink – a massive bowl of our Red Berry Flakes with that is delicious and very healthy. That would be my product of the week!

PERK!ER™ products can be found in Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda; or bought online from Amazon, Ocado, Goodness Direct, or direct from PERK!ER™

Why not check out how the new PERK!ER™ porridge pots fared in our ‘Bread to Bread’ challenge?





My Gluten Free Year: 2013

14 01 2014

A little belated, due to the arrival of the newest addition to the B family, I present my annual review of all that has happened in my gluten-free year just gone!

As well as big changes in my personal life, we have seen some major developments in the gluten free market. We have welcomed at least 2 major new high street brands to our supermarkets, seen some independent favourites hit the big time, the high street chains we’d least expect have courted the gluten free market, and as always there has been ongoing debate about the costs, misinformation and rationale for those following a gluten free diet. I hope you enjoy my little roundup, and I look forwards to sharing more of my ramblings with you in 2014!

2013 roundup

January: Musings

I spent the start of the year pondering my relationship with some of the main gluten free manufacturers – were some of them acting a tad unethically in their marketing by taking advantage of January dieters? And what is the thinking behind some of the brands we know and love? This year, everyone seems to be intermittently fasting rather than jumping on the gluten free bandwagon to lose weight. Yup, we did that too (it didn’t work)!

February: A visit to Newburn Bakehouse

As the rest of the country worried about the horsemeat scandal, I had the opportunity to tour the facilities of the newly relaunched Newburn Bakehouse - a great opportunity to learn about what goes into making a high-street gluten free product; as well as getting a sneaky peak at some new products which have since become hits. The brand seems to go from strength to strength with even more new products launching this week.

March: It’s expensive for a reason – move on!

Throughout 2013, online debate and the press were keen to show their bile when it came to the cost of gluten free products compared to their normal counterparts. I wrote my 2p worth about the cost of gluten free products - still one of my most popular posts.

April: Chaintastic

2013 was the year that gluten free really hit the high street, with every restaurant and their dog launching gluten free pizzas – great news for choice, but this left me speculating on what else us coeliacs would like to see on the GF high street. Pleasingly, GBK seem to have heeded our cry of ‘no bun no fun!’ and now have a gluten free menu! Let’s hope the changes are here to stay – it’s so welcome to be able to easily eat out with friends.

May: Guts and All

Coeliac UK’s awareness week was focussed on diagnosis. I wrote a rare personal blog highlighting my (bumpy) diagnosis story.

June: Allergy Show 2013

A crazy busy Allergy Show gave me the opportunity to try some new products, and meet up with fellow coeliacs. Check out my picks for 2013, some of which have become firm favourites!

July: Goodbye to Clerkenwell & Islington

With a heavy heart I said farewell to my central London haunts with handy round ups of where to eat gluten free in Clerkenwell and Islington.

August: What’s for Breakfast?

As my attention turned to personal matters, it seemed I just had one thing on my mind when I woke up at 6am every morning – yup – a big indulgent breakfast! I munched my way through a whole lot of granola and porridge to make sure you know which the best is in two of our trademark ‘Bread to Bread’ challenges.

September: News & New Home

After a mini-hiatus I shared some personal news, and started to explore the gluten free options in my new home town of Windsor.

October: Even More Breakfast!

7 months into pregnancy I was still obsessed with breakfast – but by this point of the naughtier variety! We also started a new series of ‘Meet the Manufacturer’ interviews starting with stalwart brand Barkat. Look out for more in 2014.

November:  Udi’s Launch in the UK

Another major launch for the UK market as Tesco continue to focus on branded gluten free goods – but can they hope to compete with home grown Warburtons and Genius? My teenage brother gave me his verdict on some of their products.

December: Mince Pies (again!)

Marks and Spencer rounded off a year of yummy surprises by launching a whole host of coeliac-friendly party foods. It was only right that they were crowned winner of our mince pie tasting. Let’s hope they continue to take the gluten out in 2014!





Bread to Bread: Mince Pies 2013

3 12 2013

It’s December! And this can mean only one thing – no, not lamenting that the Gluten Eating Husband hasn’t (yet) bought me an advent calendar (I live in hope); but it’s officially time to start the mince pie munching! But, dear reader, you don’t want to waste your precious Christmas pennies on an inferior pie. You need to know which is the best pie! Here at Gluten Free B, we know that a mince pie is a very personal choice. Some prefer them drowned in custard, whereas others don’t dig on moo (dairy). Some like them topless (oo-er!) whereas other strange people like a spot of marzipan.

With some new pies on the market this year, we turned to 3 expert taste testers for one our our trademark scientific roundups of the best the supermarkets have to offer - awarding marks for quality of pastry, yumminess of filling, crust-to-filling ratio, and general festive cheer. Which pies are good enough to leave out for Father Christmas? And which are going on the naughty list?

Delicious filling, but short, soft pastry divided the judges.

Delicious filling, but short, soft pastry divided the judges.

EDITOR’S PICK: Miss American Pie?: Udi’s Gluten Free Mince Pies (link)

£2.25 for 4, 202 calories per pie. Available from Tesco.
The transatlantic divider! Do we really trust a traditional mince pie from our American cousins? These pale, flat little pies are similar to last year’s Genius pies that have been discontinued, and like them, have divided opinion! Whilst I loved the soft, short, homemade-style pastry, Sarah from Wuthering Bites wasn’t convinced: “If i’m gonna have pastry in a mince pie it’s got to be nice and buttery with a firm base!”. They did, however, hold together well, and we were united on the rich, apple-y filling – one of the nicest tasted.
Average GF Nomability: 7/10

Carry on Baking: Sainsbury’s Freefrom Deep Filled Mince Pies (link)
£2.19 for 4, 226 calories per pie (also available with an iced top)
Last year’s dairy-free winner of ‘best pastry’ is back – this time with innuendo-laden reviews! This year the firm pastry failed to impress. After a few pies shedding their tops (!) Laura (Little Missed Gluten) judged them not “durable“, whereas Sarah found dreaded “soggy bottoms” on hers. They are still limited on the festive cheer, and looking a little machine made, but our tasters were rather fond of the super-sweet and generous deep fill (cough), especially paired with a big splurge of cream. These were the best value pies, so if you’re after a cheap (dairy free) thrill – head to Sainsbury’s!
Average GF Nomability: 7.25/10
No contest on festive cheer: M&S are this year's best of the pies

No contest on festive cheer: M&S are this year’s best of the pies

WINNER: Magic & Sparkle: Marks & Spencer Mince Pies (link)
Let’s face it, Marks & Spencer aren’t just winning at mince pies, they are winning at Christmas this year – having cottoned on that coeliacs were annually hoarding the gluten-free pigs in blankets, their Christmas and party range is full of coeliac-friendly delights. Hurrah! They have made some adjustments to the recipe for 2013 – chiefly removing the marzipan star in favour of a pastry one to much controversy (“sooo 2012!”). Despite this, the pies still trounced the others for festive cheer (just look at the lovely box!), and the perfectly balanced buttery crust-to- curranty filling ratio. There’s more than a little hint of citrus in this year’s winner. Head to M&S for the pies, but better take some pennies to stock up on the other treats while you are there.
Average GF Nomability: 9/10

Solid Waitrose pies best for your lunchbox

Solid Waitrose pies best for your lunchbox

Portable Pie: Waitrose Love Life Free From Mince Pies (link)

£2.50 for 4, 216 calories per pie
No major changes from last year for this “robust” pie. Whilst the thick, firm pastry won’t please everyone, it does mean you’ll be free from the perpetual problem of a crumbly snack. In fact, Laura enjoyed eating them straight from the tray by hand and rated them a “definite must for any coeliac”, so we reckon these are the best bet for your lunchbox, to enjoy when your colleagues start passing round the off-limits gluteny treats. Generous filling, a good all-rounder, just what we expect from Waitrose. (Worth noting that these pies contain syrup derived from wheat, which is suitable for GF-ers, but not for some people with wheat allergy).
Average GF Nomability: 8/10

The Panel
Big thanks to:
Don’t fancy any of these? Ocado have pies available from Love More or Hale & Hearty.







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