I was lucky enough to be sent press tickets to the Free From Festival 2019 in Manchester. This is my first time ever attending one of their festivals and I’ve only ever been to a very small food festival in the past so didn’t know what to expect. The event is hosted by Free From Events and centres around independent free from brands. It is the UK’s first gluten, dairy and refined sugar-free food festival so as you can imagine I was pretty excited.
Disclaimer: I was sent free press tickets to the event in return for some social media coverage and a review if I wished. All brands featured in this post have not paid nor requested coverage, and all products were purchased by myself. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own and have not been influenced by the brands featured.
I brought along my beautiful friend Emily of Thrive Nine to Five and although we’ve known each other for about 6 years or so this was actually the first time we had ever met. So, it was pretty special to me I’m not gonna lie. We met at Manchester Picadilly station and somehow managed to get lost because neither of us has a great sense of direction. So, we ended up doing that childlike thing of finding a police officer and asking for help. Thankfully the fuzz was about and they assisted accordingly whilst dishing out an acceptable level of mockery.
Free From Festival 2019
Once we managed to make our way to the event we were met with a kitsch looking warehouse that smelled of delicious Indian food. The interior space had been donned out in all kinds of vintage type sofas, lighting, and cute flower decorations that gave a unique thrift/antique store vibe. There were lots of little market-style stalls and a super cute pastel pink Booja Booja ice cream tuk-tuk, but it was pretty busy so we grabbed a scrummy dosa sprinkled with fermented veggies, from Dosa Love, and headed upstairs to check out the talks.
The Talks and Demonstrations
As the venue was so packed I was only able to check out 2 of the talks, which I’ll go into more detail on below, but there were 3 others that I sadly missed from; Cathrine Cook of SpOil on how to use essential oils for wellbeing, Green Sisters talking on how to make an allergen-free lunchbox, and Paula Jenkins (Co-founder of Our Paula’s) with a vegan cooking demo.
First up was the wonderfully bubbly Caroline Sproule, a Consultant at her very own Bromsgrove Allergy and Nutrition Centre. Her ‘Body Talk’ was about teaching the signs that your body gives you when something’s out of kilter and she provided a lot of information on how you can actually train yourself to listen to these signs and signals in order to cure yourself and prevent serious illness.
The main focus seemed to be on the liver and how an unhappy liver can lead to symptoms such as; nausea, IBS, achy joints, skin conditions, headaches and migraines, and even depression and anxiety. She summarised that this is usually the result of poor diet and hydration but also signs of dairy and gluten intolerance. She did, however, attack fats as being a problem which I found rather shocking and was a bit disappointed to hear this outdated view as healthy fats are a key to a good diet. Personally, as someone with an autoimmune disease, the best diet for me is one that’s very low carb and high in fats.
Other than that blip though a lot of what Caroline had to say was very true and would have been helpful to an uneducated audience who don’t spend their days researching the health and wellness realm. Caroline’s 50-minute talk was incredibly informative and she did well to keep the interest, engaging with the audience well. I really liked how she managed to translate somewhat complex topics in Layman’s terms and kept things really relatable.
Caroline handed out a cute little sheet of unhappy liver symptoms, along with her business card. I managed to grab her for a quick chat and a photo of her and her daughter. She really loved her daughter and I thought she was just the cutest mum ever, full of joie de vivre.
Even though I already know how to make a keto fat coffee (also known as a Bulletproof Coffee) I was intrigued to see how co-founder Amy Moring made hers. I’ve spent a long time being keto and everyone seems to make theirs differently. For those that don’t know, it’s simply a cup of coffee emulsified with MCT oil and either coconut oil, butter, or ghee resulting in a creamy elixir that can rid coffee jitters and boost your energy levels.
Amy started by talking about her background with dealing with Coeliac Disease and also Jeff Webster’s transition from living with acne and an unhealthy diet to one with healthier fats and nutritious ingredients. Jeff is also the co-founder of Hunter & Gather and Amy’s boyfriend which, being uber-romantic, I find a little too cute, sorry. (Not sorry.)
Then came the glorious demonstration. Amy used a drip coffee method, which other than an Aeropress, I’ve never actually dabbled in. She was very precise with her coffee-making – measuring every ingredient out like a science experiment whilst engaging with the audience every step of the way. She used coconut oil and the Hunter & Gather MCT Oil then blended together with a stick blender. I was pretty chuffed that she was dishing these out to the audience in mini paper cups and I chugged one down wishing I’d gone back for seconds.
With only 15 minutes to talk about the benefits of healthy fats and collagen as well as demonstrate how to make the infamous Keto Fat Coffee, Amy absolutely smashed it. She was clear and concise and delivered her speech with a level of conviction and confidence that I only wish I could possess.
The Food Brands
There were so many food brands at the event but sadly I couldn’t manage to get to every stall which made me a little sad but my wallet a lot happier. You can check out the full list of exhibitors here. I just want to apologise to the really friendly lady from No Whey! – a vegan cheese brand that was full of flavour. Her cheese is made with soy milk so it’s not something I can indulge in often but it was incredibly delicious and I totally forgot to go back and buy some before heading off for my train.
By the time I managed to get around to their stall all of their fun flavoured brownies, such as pumpkin spice flavour (yum), had disappeared so I came away with 2 plain brownies for the girls and one of their chocolate orange melting pots for myself. Oh my word, straight up everything at their stall was delicious.
All of their products were Paleo but not vegan (as made with eggs) but they used 70% chocolate (I think?) with coconut flour and sweetened with coconut sugar, meaning that I could actually eat something and enjoy it for once. The girls scoffed down their brownies like there was no tomorrow and they were devastated there wasn’t more to eat.
The item I was most interested, however, was the ‘melting pot’. I just thought it was going to be a little swirl of glorious chocolate you could meltdown in the microwave and scoff with a spoon but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was actually a cake batter that once microwaved resembled a fondant that had been cooked for ever so slightly too long. I was sold. It’s very rare I feel that someone can make something better than me but when it came to these bad boys I’d definitely leave it in the hands of the Ko-Co girls.
Would I buy these again? 100% yes – girls when your website is fully up and running expect an unreasonable amount of orders being delivered to my door. Insert 5 million drool emojis here.
This product line intrigued me because it seemed so innovative – which in this day and age is becoming a super tricky thing to be in the health and wellness world. They sell a line of porridge mixes and granola packed with gluten-free oats, prebiotic inulin to feed your good gut bacteria, and sweetened with coconut sugar. They’re low in sugar and high in fibre making them perfect for the kiddos at breakfast. I opted for the Calm Porridge+ with Chamomile & Gentle Ginger in hopes that Anya would maybe eat it and give me a break for once.
But Troo doesn’t stop there, they also stock their ‘Spoonful of Fibre‘ which is essentially an inulin syrup derived from chicory root. The government RDA of fibre is 30g a day and most people only consume around 19g. Troo’s fibre syrup contains a whopping 7g of fibre per tablespoon and only 1.1g of carbohydrates (of which sugars) meaning that it’s actually also a pretty keto-friendly sweetener.
For me, this was the most exciting moment I’ve experienced food shopping in a long time. The syrup also comes in a gorgeous cacao version too and tastes close to a mixture of honey and golden syrup. It’s 100% natural and vegan too so it’s probably one of the most accessible health food products on the market. Troo also sells gut health tests on their website too.
Troo is currently available to buy direct from their website or at Waitrose, Holland and Barrett, Ocado, and Planet Organic. To keep up to date with all things Troo why not give them a follow on Instagram.
Hunter & Gather sell an award-winning range of products suitable for those following a Paleo diet including; 100% Avocado Oil Mayonnaise, Egg Free Mayocado (vegan!), Cold-Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Premium MCT Oil, and 100% Pure Bovine Collagen Peptide Powder.
I didn’t actually pick up any of the Hunter & Gather products from the event, which I now wholeheartedly regret. But, I have tried them in the past when they rather kindly sent me out some jars of their insanely delicious mayonnaise to try. The guilt has now set in however as I completely forgot to post anything about them after taking numerous photographs. So, now seemed as good a time as any to discuss how freaking awesome they are!
I was sent their Chilli and Lime Mayonnaise (now Chipotle and Lime) and oh my god I was in heaven. It’s the creamiest mayonnaise ever and it’s not bitter from the avocado oil either. I love that their mayos are both Paleo and Keto approved because it means it’s something that I could consume without having to read the label. They say there are roughly 8 avocados in each jar and every ingredient is 100% natural. I’m really keen to try out the vegan version that uses konjac root to thicken and there’s pea protein too to make up for the lack of eggs. Genius!
Whether you’re new or a seasoned pro to the world of healthy eating and an allergen-free lifestyle there’s bound to be something new or interesting that you’ll find at the Free From Festival. Although I already knew the information provided in the talks it was still nice to be immersed in a culture of people that are living the same lifestyle. I even got to meet a beautiful young lady called Sakshi who I had a really wonderful chat with (and shared a few hugs) after the Hunter & Gather demonstration.
The food was lovely but I felt that there was way too much deep-fried stuff available, I get that it’s a free-from festival but would have liked to see much healthier options available as really I shouldn’t even be eating a dosa thanks to my autoimmune disease (but god damn it was delicious). Overall though everything was delicious and the event showcased some really innovative and interesting brands including lots of small independents.
I’d just like to thank Margarita from Free From Events for inviting me and for the wonderful goodie bag which contained some scrumptious products from; Daura Damm, Gluten-Free Heaven, Hippeas, Dragonfly Tea, Rebel Kitchen, Full Green, and Sweet Freedom.
If you’re interested in attending the next Free From Festival then you’ll be pleased to know that they’ve got one coming to Bristol on Saturday, 23rd of November 2019 – you can find out more here. To keep up to date with the latest free from news be sure to sign up to their newsletter or give them a follow on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.