Being a Fussy Foodie

Supermarket Free-From

Do you find yourself spending hours trawling the supermarket free-from aisles, checking labels and looking out for products that meet your special dietary needs?… me too.  So I did a bit of investigating to find out what support the websites offer to make supermarket free-from shopping a little easier…

I couldn’t find anything on allergy or intolerance via the home page, but they do have Tesco Diets, which looks like a good resource for people wanting to adopt a healthy diet or lose weight.  Once logged in to the grocery section it was not obvious where to find free-from products, although a list was available once in the tins, packets and jars section. This isn’t available in other sections though so it wouldn’t be easy to find a full range of products.
Fussy foodie friendliness: 4/10
After selecting food and wine on the home page I can click straight through to ‘special diets’ under the healthy lifestyle heading. The special diets pages are really comprehensive with a section on their own supermarket free-from products and (under allergy and intolerances) downloadable lists of all their products that are suitable for a gluten / dairy / nut / egg / wheat free diet. All updated in Feb ’09. You can even join a nut allergy mailing list for the latest updates. There is also a page on vegan diets and recipes that you can search by special diet, and I haven’t had to do any logging in!
Fussy foodie friendliness: 8/10
At first glance I couldn’t see anything useful on the home page. Then after scrolling right down to the bottom I found free-from under ‘our other sites’. There is a bit of information about allergy and intolerance but it is mostly promoting Asda’s own free-from range. It is layed out clearly in sections but to see any of the products you have to log in. There is a downloadable list of wheat free Asda products (taken from Coeliac UK’s 2009 directory) but no other allergen lists.
Fussy foodie friendliness: 6/10
Not easy to find what I am looking for. A section on healthy eating had nothing about free-from diets but the ‘food ranges’ area was slightly more useful as it at least tells you that they have a free-from range. But this is as far as it went, very disappointing.
Fussy foodie friendliness: 2/10
By now I am learning to look to the bottom of the page and here I find a section entitled ‘health and nutrition.’  Under this is a special diets section with useful information on their own free-from products and sensible advice on restricted diets and food labelling. You can even contact their Nutrition Advice Service for guidance and regularly updated free-from lists for egg, gluten, milk/lactose, nuts/peanuts, sesame and soya. They also produce lists of own-brand products that are suitable for vegetarians, vegans and diabetics. A wealth of information and no log in in needed.
Fussy foodie friendliness: 9/10
I can’t find anything on free-from products or special diets on this website.
Fussy foodie friendliness: 0/10
Marks and Spencer
It was easy to find the dedicated section on allergy and intolerance under special diets in the food and wine area. From here you can download lists of own-brand products that are free-from gluten / nuts / milk and lactose / egg / soya / added yeast and yeast extracts / sesame. Also available are lists of products suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets and all of the lists are updated each month. If you email the nutritionist they will combine lists for people with more than one intolerance / allergy to create a personalised list. Excellent work M&S!
Fussy foodie friendliness 9/10

So it seems that Waitrose and M&S have the most helpful websites, but what about the stores themselves? Who would you give the award of best free-from supermarket to? Or is it best to buy specialist products elsewhere?

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  • Reply
    July 13, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Great post Laura. Supermarket shopping can be really frustrating but with a little practice knowing what products you can and can’t have it does get easier. There are some fantastic products out there and alot of them not in the so called “Free From” ranges, infact most products in the “Free From” ranges are not friendly for me as they often don’t support multiple food intolerances. Waitrose, although more expensive, has some fantastic products that really expand the range of products avaliable to Fussy Foodie, so it’s well worth a visit now and then – Thanks Waitrose!

  • Reply
    Cheryl Whitlock
    July 13, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Hi there – I just wanted to point out that Marks & Spencer may come out top marks with regards to the lists that they produce, but they don’t have a “free from range” at all. I think this is very disappointing for a company that everyone regards as top end of the market when it comes to its food range. I have been into store and spoken to Customer Services and they have advised that they have enquiries each day from the public asking if they stock a “free from range”. They did actually produce a specific range a number of years ago and I can actually remember it, but it was later withdrawn. This was perhaps due to the fact that food intolerance’s weren’t quite so well known then – hence the reason for poor sales. I now don’t bother going into M&S as there is hardly any products that don’t contain milk, dairy or gluten apart from the obvious such as vegetables, salad’s etc.. I keep meaning to write to their Headoffice, as the more people that complain the better, as they may think about reintroducing a free from range – so come on ladies, lets all get writing!!

  • Reply
    February 22, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    Hi Laura,
    If you were to repeat your research today, I think you would score Sainsbury’s 10/10

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