The Food Hypersensitive (FHS) Customer, Afternoon Tea What Good Looks Like!
The FHS customer is The Food Standards Agency’s definition of those customers who have a food allergy, coeliac disease or food intolerances.
I am the FHS customer who has intolerances, I am both gluten free (GF) and dairy intolerant (DF) and when dining out I often struggle to find venues, especially afternoon tea, that can accommodate more than one allergen. Recently I organised an afternoon tea and was assured my GF & DF version would be like the standard version, can you spot the difference. No Scones, cream and jam, no fancy cakes, but two types of flapjacks and chocolate brownie. The sandwiches were vegan, and not very appetizing as very dry no marinades. Please note dairy free does not always mean vegan, check with your customer on their diet!
Dairy free is on the increase with approximately 65 percent of the human population having a reduced ability to digest lactose, this is most common in people of East Asian descent and those looking at plant based diets either because of health or sustainability reasons.
26% of UK households avoid dairy products, and 18% of UK adults have bought dairy substitutes in the past 12 months.
Mintel 2022 UK Free-From Foods Market Report.
From my personal experience those Cafés, pubs and restaurants run by someone who has a Food Hypersensitivity, or is related too, or who has a close friend with a dietary requirement are the ones which offer a greater selection and offers information on their allergy policy regarding how food is prepared. A good example of this is Greenwood Tree Café nestled away in the idyllic village of Lyndhurst in the New Forest.
The proprietor Fran Owen who trained locally at Bournemouth College and completed the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Specialised Chef’s Scholarship, has also worked for award winning contract cater Lexington Catering where she completed her apprenticeship, and also at Christchurch Harbour hotel, & The Captains Club.
Fran has allergies to tree nuts and coconut since a young child and overnight developed an intolerance to dairy when working at the Greenwood Tree Café, their speciality is afternoon teas and home baked cakes, Fran wanted to ensure that those with dietary requirements were still able to have a comparable afternoon tea and enjoy her homemade scones with clotted cream. However, the experience was not complete without the clotted cream.
Fran set out to source vegan cream with no success, so she set out experiment and develop a replica which was a great success and named it Flotted cream.
Fran stated, “It was taste tested with over 100 customers, who were vegan, dairy free, and coconut free, including gluten free and dairy free customers and the response was, ‘it was so close to the real thing’, I knew I was on to a winner. When I started serving it with my vegan scones it really took off, at one point the vegan cream teas were out selling the regular ones which was crazy”.
Fran has had requests to post the ‘Flotted Cream’ all over the country, and since November 2022 they have been constantly posting every Thursday to between 75 – 100 requests a week., with fantastic reviews, many not believing the cream is free from #14 top allergens.
On special occasions such as mother’s day the café offers an afternoon tea, and they ensure everyone gets the same or as close to the same, this year the afternoon tea consisted of cherry and chocolate macarons, mini Victoria songs, rhubarb and vanilla mille fullie, lemon tarts, fresh fruit tarts, fruit sones, plain scones, strawberry and white chocolate scones and a selection of sandwiches, everything was available gluten free, vegan, gluten free and vegan and also regular. We wanted to include everyone.
The Food Hypersensitive customer is a loyal, repetitive customer who will share experiences online with an active allergy community, we want a positive customer experience with a similar quality meal as our friends and family who can eat anything, and the FHS customer is willing and understands that sometimes this may come at a price but please make it reasonable.
Caroline Benjamin is the founder of FoodAllergyAware.co.uk who offers a range of allergen management services including training, consultancy, auditing, and events – check out our forthcoming event – Mock Trial Food Allergy Prosecution on Tuesday 26 September 2023.
If you provide a safe and inclusive FreeFrom menu encourage your FHS customer to review your venue on Allergy Companions and engage with the allergy community today.