Very quick post – and not my usual sort, but hopefully appreciated by dairy and gluten sensitives … and perhaps those who react to other allergens.
Have just attended an M&S press event in London. The following products are launching in April:
* GF Scotch Eggs
* GF Quiche Lorraine / C&O (my scribbled note – which I take to be cheese and onion)
* 2, possibly 3, dairy free milks – coconut and rice being the definite two. (They looked like chiller-cabinet rather than ambient, but I forgot to ask, so perhaps – in fact, probably – not.)
All looked very good, but could not sample them.
* 2 gluten-free beers.
I don’t know much about them – but Belgian.
I also saw some upcoming launches of baby / infant foods. Although not specifically being marketed ‘free from’, I was told they had consulted with one of the major children’s hospitals and taken advice on making them ‘good for allergies’ (words of the M&S assistant). I examined a few: some had major allergens, but others didn’t, and one was pureed (I think) carrot, beans, and quinoa flakes, and looked to me on very quick glance to be free of all 14 allergens. Not sure when these are launching, but will try to find out more.
On a separate note, I fell into conversation about social media with the lady looking after the beers, and mentioned to her that it might be a good idea for M&S (and other major supermarkets / retailers) to have dedicated social media eg Twitter accounts for ‘free from’. She liked the idea. I don’t follow the major supermarkets on social media, but for those who do, do they often tweet on ‘free from’ or not? And would dedicated accounts help?
Feel free to ask Qs on the above, and I will try to answer them or find out more. I’ll speak to my colleagues on FreeFrom Foods Matter and hope we can review them there soon.
* UPDATE: the third dairy-free milk is an Oat Drink. All three (rice and coconut) will retail at £1.39 for 1 litre.
NB. All products launch 22nd April 2014.
Nice to hear that they are adding to the range but you know me, I'm going to have to moan, it's all gluten free again. Interesting, they are adding DF milks. Dedicated social media is a good idea. I would follow as long as they are interactive with customers and not all about promotion.
My initial thought was – 'Yes! Exclusive free from social networks from respective supermarkets would be great' – but then, having had a think about it, I feel that they should keep their free from announcements inclusive on their main sites. The reason being (from a personal perspective), is that as a card carrying member of the free from community, I would not like to be considered excluded of 'mainstream' information. As in, I would like to see the supermarkets being far more inclusive of the free from community and making free from announcements as mainstream and common as those announcements not referring to a restrictive diet. I think exposure of the free from world to the 'average' consumer may help normalise perspective that being free from doesn't necessarily = fussy. A sort of passive awareness being spread. Perhaps, I'm over thinking it!!
Anyway – great to hear the news about gluten free beer. Yay!
Yes, I was pleased recently to discover that they'd brought out a dairy free chocolate Easter Egg – which I featured in a recent post about dairy free Eater eggs. I was excited when the shop assistant I spoke to (I needed help to locate the egg) said the plan was to extend M & S free from range, but on the whole I am underwhelmed, I'm afraid.
Firstly, I feel that they're on the back foot with this one – the other supermarkets are way ahead on this score. And with the products that you've mentioned, I don't see enough range of products on offer to tempt me through their doors, on a regular basis. It's for this reason, that I rarely shop in their food store, although I may be in the clothing areas. I feel they're just dipping their toe in the water and dabbling really. What would be awesome is to see them take a braver leap and perhaps be the first supermarket to really address the egg free and nut free issues as well.
Secondly, the focus, as Sugarpuffish has already rightly mentioned, is on the gluten free again. As a dairy and gluten free person, I'm frustrated by the fact that hardly any of their gluten free products are suitable for me.
Thirdly, if they don't clearly communicate with their free from customers, how will we know about these products? Too often supermarkets introduce new lines, only to withdraw them, for lack of custom, just as I discover them. This is very disappointing.
On this note, if they could introduce a free from stream on Twitter, I would definitely follow – with great interest!! I've often thought that Tesco, for example, could do much better by engaging with free from customers by email – they must have Club Card info on us in their database, after all. I think by opening up dialogue with their customer base, in this way, could be of benefit to the supermarket as well as to us.
Just to follow up on my twitter comment – the thing that I like about M&S is that they don't seem to be treating 'gluten-free' as something that needs segregation. Most of their sausages, for instance, are gluten-free, and they have an easily identifiable logo on the front. If you want a GF sausage from Waitrose (for instance), you have to look at the brands they sell, or look for the rare own-brand sausages that are GF.
They are also (as far as I know) the only major store to offer a GF breaded ham, a GF breaded chicken, and a GF breaded fish. They're not perfect but they seem to be approaching this market slightly differently to the other stores, and for that reason, I find them the easiest supermarket to buy from.
Personally I'd prefer a separate 'free from' stream….I get tired of wading through posts about things I can't eat!
However, I'm going to moan about the Gluten Free foods too. So many have egg in them which puts them into the 'no' box for us. I don't know what the figures are for people having multiple food allergies, but we can't be the only household where we have to avoid more than one major allergen. So many of the 'free from' foods seem aimed at a single allergen.
I don't think you're overthinking it – it's a vital point. It mirrors, in some respects, the question of whether we want a separate aisle for 'free from' or integration within the mainstream. It's nice to have everything in one place, but it doesn't help to 'normalise' it – in fact, it 'medicalises' it. But hear, hear about the beer … will try to find out who's making it for them …
Thanks for such good comments. I should point out that the launches I mentioned were the ones I found out about and saw at the press event. It's possible there are others.
I agree that their whole view and approach seems different – I experience it from the media/press side too – and perhaps it's just the case that this suits some individuals, while the approach of the larger supermarkets suits others. Perhaps there's room for both.
I don't know either, but do hear of many with multiple 'free from' requirements (not only allergies, but ethical or other health exclusions) that I'm surprised more supermarkets and brands don't make more of an effort to meet. I do think this message will start to get across to them if more people make noise about it!
Perhaps that's the sticking point: interaction with customers would demand that the tweeters manning the account are fully aware of free-from and allergy issues …