Find out why Nigel looked to Italy for tasty free from foods
I had been seeing Free From Italy pop up in different areas, so it was great to meet the man behind the brand! Nigel Singh created the brand after being disheartened by the lack of good quality, tasty free from food that was available in the UK. He has gone out of his way to source, taste and select various items, before adding them to the ever growing list of items that he supplies. Now over to Nigel who will fill you in on the why, what, when and more.
What does Free From Italy specialise in selling?
Free From Italy is all about high quality Italian food brands that are gluten, dairy, egg and nut free as well as being Vegan. It is a bonus if they are organic too. The brands we import for Free From Italy must be known (in Italy), for both quality and value. Everyone knows how passionate Italians are about the excellence of their food! Free From Italy must achieve that same excellence.
Where is Free From Italy based?
Home for Free From Italy is in a small village near York but we spend lots of time in Italy working with our Italian partners. We're always looking for new products that fit our ethos. There is simply no other place that compares in quality to the food and wine of Italy.
Are your products accessible globally?
Our main market is in the UK, however our brands can be seen as far afield as Australia.
What inspired you to create a business that focuses on vegan food, that's also free of gluten?
I have worked in the food business for over 30 years and became disillusioned with the lack of good quality food offerings from big UK manufacturers. I worked with Italian food companies, and noticed a difference in the quality of their food. Italians are passionate about food and don’t accept second best. The gap in quality was even bigger in the Free From sector. As a result, I set up Free From Italy and originally focused on gluten, dairy and egg free products. It was our customers that awakened our interest in Vegan food. Though all of the Free From Italy products were free of dairy and eggs, we were getting hundreds of people asking if the products were actually Vegan. Further investigation proved we had as many Vegan customers as those with Coeliacs disease. We are now in the process of labelling all products as Vegan.
How easy is it for you to source cruelty free ingredients for your products?
All of the Free From Italy products are natural plant based foods. We don’t accept any product that has any ingredient of animal origin or if animal products are used in the production process. We label our products as being free from allergens like dairy and egg, so we have strict procedures to ensure there is no cross-contamination.
Do these ingredients effect the outcome in comparison with non-vegan croissants, for example?
Our quality control team are the Italian consumers. They set high standards. If a product does not sell well in Italy we don’t want it in our range. The Le Conserve Della Nonna Pesto has been nominated for many awards and has become a big seller for Free From Italy. In blind tests against pesto offered in the mainstream, many consumers picked it out as the best of the lot! The Probio’s Croissants won an award at the Sial Show Paris 2015. An award from the French for a Croissant made in Italy…..tells you everything about the quality!
What is the most popular item that you sell?
The Probio’s Croissants are just launching and I am expecting them to be a runaway success based on the response we have received from both trade and consumers. However, at the moment the Le Conserve Della Nonna Pesto’s are the most popular followed by Ciemme Quinoa Gnocchi. Put the two together for a restaurant quality gluten free Vegan meal in minutes.
Is Free From Italy owned by, or in partnership with, another company that tests on animals or sells non-vegan products?
Free From Italy is 100% owned by me with lots of help from my lovely partner, Olga. None of my brands are tested on animals but some of my suppliers may sell non Vegan products.
Tell me a bit about yourself before you launched Free From Italy?
I have worked in the food industry since I left school. I've worked for both large and small companies, for example, Heinz and ProSoya. My last position before setting up Free From Italy was as European Commercial Director for Pasta Lensi, who are now one of my suppliers. I love the pace of this industry, which means we have to be ready for constant change, and be able to meet challenges to address customer demand.
What is your vision for the future of Free From Italy?
I would like Free From Italy to become one of the “go to” companies for retailers when it comes to authentic Italian Vegan food. Most of the bigger retailers are still not addressing the needs of Vegans. This will change as demand continues to grow with consumers demanding more ethically produced foods. I want Free From Italy to be at the forefront, helping to drive change. I am already talking to one big retailer about the opportunity they are missing to meet their customers' demands.
Vegan food in a physical store
Vegan foods that don't perish quickly - available to purchase online
Good Hemp Food - hemp, hemp and more hemp
Clearsping - authentic Japanese food
Sgaia - vegan 'mheat'
nutpods - vegan creamers
Spice and Infused - funky flavours of popcorn
Snact - saving the ugly fruit
Shire Snax - energy bars
Good Carma - vegan Parmesan