Saturday, September 14, 2013

Toronto Gluten Free Expo 2013

This morning I piled the family in the car and we drove downtown to the Gluten Free Expo. I went last year for the first time, when it was held in a hotel in Mississauga, and was so popular that they were filled to capacity and people had to line up outside in the lobby to wait for a chance to get in. This year they held it at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, a HUGE location, and sold advance tickets which allowed holders to enter two hours before the general public. Even with advance tickets it was pretty busy in there. I can't imagine how crazy it got after it opened to the general public! By the way, kids got free admission.

One small part of the Exhibit Hall minutes after the doors opened.
Some people ask me why I bother to go to these events year after year. I go for a few reasons. The first is my son. There aren't many places he can go where he can eat EVERYTHING without worry. For one day, if the kid wants to stuff his face with as many free samples as he can handle, so what? There are enough days when he goes somewhere and there's NOTHING he can safely consume. What I liked about this year's Expo was that at every booth serving food there was a card that the vendor filled in showing which allergens were present. Helpful for those with more than just a gluten restriction.

The second reason I go is to support businesses who are doing gluten free right. Those which are certified gluten free, local business that offer a small range of products and rely on expos such as this to get their product noticed. That doesn't mean I like every vendor or every product, but I appreciate that there are more choices available for my son today than there have ever been before. As a consumer, I get to choose which of those products I want to purchase, but an Expo is a great place to sample and learn about products with no need to purchase if it's not right for me.

The third reason I go is to meet people and learn about what's new. Particularly with smaller bakeries who have booths staffed by the actual people who run the business, it's a wonderful way for me to make personal connections and chat about their product. It's also a great way for me to get an idea of what's new and what trends might be on the way. For example, this year I noticed many more organic, vegan, and paleo offerings than I have in the past. There were also more companies offering different ethnic foods, like the all-natural Indian spice mixes I picked up.

What we brought home from the Expo

It's also fun! I chatted up other visitors, tried some great products, and picked up business cards and pamphlets. This year's Expo had wider aisles, a larger venue, a cafĂ©, and a stage for presentations. It felt like it flowed better than last year's did, and it was good value for the money. Definitely going to be a yearly tradition for my family.

The Expo is open on Sunday as well. If you're thinking of going, more info can be found at their website

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