Reading through last year’s recap of the Allergy + Free From Show and V Delicious, I am touched by how excitable and naive I was. And a little alarmed at how much more cynical I have become in a year.
The strange thing is that overall, I feel I had a much better experience of the show; I had already seen or heard of most of the exhibitors, so I knew which stalls I wanted to battle to get to, and which ones I was happy to drop large amounts of money at.
The day started perfectly with me getting there very late. I didn’t want to be there before 3pm (the show closes at 4pm), but by mysteriously getting lost in the Notting Hill area I used to walk through every morning for work (I still don’t know how that happened), we hurried ourselves in at 3.30pm. You’ll have to excuse the lack of photos – I just didn’t have time and it was all a bit of a bustling madhouse by the time we got there!
I do not do well with choice and decisions, so the restricted time meant I had to make some crucial decisions; I decided to ignore all the shows co-locating with V Delicious, having last year spent the vast majority of my time trawling through gluten-free and nut-free stalls which were usually not vegan-friendly, as well as allergen-friendly cosmetics which were far beyond my budget, and eco-friendly house-cleaning products which were not a priority of mine. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it crowds my brain and I lose sense of what is important (chocolate, healthy snack bars, and cake).
The main problem with going so late is that all the delicious cakes have long since been gobbled up. But I have learnt that I am a fairly reluctant cake-eater before 10pm, and a highly indecisive cake-buyer. My main problem is that I feel intensely and irrationally bad for cake that sits around for more than 24 hours, so I either end up worrying about it during most of my waking hours, or eating it all in a fever of guilt and passion and more guilt. The only cake stall that was left and abundantly stocked was that of Global Fusion Vegan Creole, whose humble-looking loaf cakes we had sampled early on at Vegfest and then missed out on.
We pressed ourselves anxiously to the stall, pinched up crumbs of samples, and eyed up all equally moist-looking loaf cakes; ginger, rum, apple crumble, banana, mango (mango!!!). The great thing about loaf cakes is that they keep a little longer, and you don’t spend the rest of your day worrying about destroying beautiful icing. The great thing about these loaf cakes is they are cheap, delicious, moist, flavourful, and you can buy them by the quarter, half, or full loaf. We paid £3 for a half-loaf of ginger cake, and the lovely lady behind the stall popped an extra quarter or third of another loaf in there.
All the usual suspects were there; Ms Cupcake (wiped out by the time we got there), Ruby’s of London (also pretty much swept clean, save for some oh-too-tempting mini-loaf cakes involving lemon drizzle), Trina’s Delicacies (also demolished), Will’s Vegan Shoes (already gone by the time we arrived, sold clean out I suspect), and all the big brands and distributors like Alpro,Tiana and Clearspring. I decided to ignore most of those as I can get my hands on their products anytime, I didn’t need samples, and it’s pretty easy to find good promotions on those if you hunt around the internet a little and sign up for mailing lists.
I had planned to stock up on some Vegusto cheeses, but they were only discounted to £4 from the usual £5, so it wasn’t really worth parting with the cash and carrying them around. I was hoping to catch a good promotion on Dee’s sausages which had impressed me last year, but they were also sold out, and ultimately they are still expensive for what they are. I hadn’t been overly tempted by VBites until I saw they were selling all of their last stock for 50p a pack – I hovered and dithered, but they were all fish-themed and we don’t really like or miss fish. I was also tempted by Pudology (how could you not be?), but I wasn’t sure how well they’d fare with a night out on the town sans refrigeration.
The first stand I dropped some money at after Global Fusion Vegan Creole was a stall selling Amazing Grass dietary supplements and Organic Food Bar snack bars. I had first discovered them in my local health food store, not having seen them before, and was intrigued to find they were vegan. Ultimately, they are yet another fruit-nut-rice protein combination with the occasional chocolate chip – somewhere between a Nakd or Trek bar and a Pulsin bar. But they were tasty, and different, and at 12 bars for £10 it was a reasonable buy as I always
need want healthy (ish) snack bars.
Although last year I had refused to splurge on Nakd bars, I have been getting through bar-shaped snacks with alarming regularity these days, and even caved in to buying them on offer in Waitrose just last week. So it seemed silly to pass up on 18 bars for £8 (the coffee shop I am sitting in as I type sells them for £1.60 each). I picked my selection from their few remaining half-empty boxes, and the girl who took my money shoved about 4 more in there, packing them in firmly with a big smile. This is what I had come for!
I then insisted we sidle over to Nakd’s sister snack bar, Trek, whose protein flapjacks had pretty much blown my mind last year. Ben likes a good flapjack, and I like to know he is well fed. A slightly less helpful stall attendant almost made me turn away, but the thought of 16 bars for £10 won me over.
50 snack bars for £28 isn’t bad going!
I have been completely addicted to Rebel Kitchen “mylks” lately, so I knew I had to stock up whatever their promotion. Buying a case of 12 for £12 went without saying, and the lovely and cheerful staff behind the stand just made parting with cash even easier. Moreover, I got to try the two flavours I hadn’t yet tasted – chocolate and chai. The chocolate was impressively rich and decadent, the chai was beautifully spiced and intriguing. I still have a soft spot for the matcha mylk, but maybe thats just because it’s weird and green.
I was pleased to see Itadaki Zen had a stall – and were offering their last bento boxes out for just £3! Unfortunately, I only had £1 left in cash at that point so had to turn the offer down. I also tried to get near the Coconut Collaborative stall to try their coconut yoghurts after they caught my attention on Twitter a few weeks ago, but they were swarming, and I was unlikely to buy anything as we had already overfilled our bags and were going to the theatre straight afterwards. I’m a sucker for any company who come across as human even through social media, so I will purchase them in my regular shop someday for sure.
Other than that, I tested a bunch of samples of raw chocolate, fruit-and-nut bars, inspected the new 9bar Indulge, and toyed with the idea of stocking up on Bounce Balls, but ultimately nothing really peaked my interest.
I was amazed at how many more raw chocolates had popped up since last year. While I felt “superfoods” seemed to be on the increase, Ben pointed out that the market seemed very heavily centred on convenience foods. What do you guys think? What would you like to see more (or less) of?
Despite having to rush around in a bit of a panic, I’m really pleased I went and am happy with the deals that I got. I also thought the whole show was so much more enjoyable than last year, being in a much bigger and more spacious hall. Next year I’ll be sure so leave myself a bit more time… But I’ll definitely be hanging back for those last-minute promos (and to not be distracted by mounds of beautiful cakes)!