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Morrisons is not my nearest supermarket so I don't shop there that often - but all that could be about to change after what I've learnt about the supermarket this week. Because Morrisons is in the process in driving a huge change in the way it approaches free from food, and it's pretty impressive.
At the start of Coeliac Awareness Week, Morrisons very kindly offered me and a select few other free from bloggers and nutrition experts the chance to visit their new store in Colindale, North London. The store was completed in March and is being used to showcase the new free from concept.
If you're coeliac or have any other form of food intolerance or allergy, you normally do exactly what I do when entering an unfamiliar supermarket: pick up a basket and make your way, head down, towards the darkest, furthest corner of the store, where you're pretty much guaranteed to find the Free From section.
But Morrisons are putting a stop to that. If you shop there you'll be aware of their 'market street' concept, and the idea is to make free from a part of that. Because in this store, ALL of the free from products are together. No running between dry goods and freezers trying to seek out what you can eat.
Because the dry goods, fresh produce and frozen free from goodies are all together. This means, essentially, you could just head straight to the free from section and grab everything you need in one go.
Stef Downey, buyer at Morrisons, was keen to explain the lengths the store has gone to in ensuring the free from products are just right. It seems the company has put a lot of effort into liaising with a group from its local Coeliac UK branch to make sure the goods meet the customer's needs.
Stef said: "We have had a working group of coeliacs and over the last 12 months we have sat down and looked at what they miss being able to purchase, and the alternatives.
"We've also signed up to the Gluten Free Guarantee and worked very closely with Coeliac UK to ensure all of our 492 stores have at least the eight core products. The future is about listening to feedback and making sure its right. It's about adding new products to the range all of the time."
Stef even told us how one elderly customer approached Morrisons to say she loved mince pies, but could not find gluten free ones easily and asked if the store could stock them year-round. In fact, this is the very reason why you can now find gluten free mince pies on the shelves 12 months of the year in Morrisons.
As well as rolling out these free from aisles around the country, there are also plans to look at new product lines, including fresh, gluten free-breaded fish at the fish counter, and gluten free bread baked in sealed packets at the bakery to avoid cross-contamination.
I personally always felt Marks and Spencer was leading the way in their gluten free concepts, but I think they better watch their backs because Morrisons is sneaking up behind them and almost looking set to overtake. If they really do listen to the feedback on the day and act on it, they could be on to a winner.
They also put on a pretty gorgeous afternoon tea spread for us, so it would be rude not to share some pictures. All of the items were either available on the shelves or made from free from products in store.
While I was at the Morrisons event I also met some pretty cool bloggers who you should definitely check out. It was a great day and worth the train journey - it makes the future of free from look exciting!
Check out these other bloggers...
What do you think of the new Morrisons concept? Do you like the idea of having everything free from altogether or do you prefer it separate? Comment below and let me know what you think!