Dear Mr. Rose,
Re : The Lack of Dairy Free Foods in Marks & Spencer
Firstly, may I say that I am a great fan of Marks & Spencer food but have to say that for anyone with a dairy allergy there are very, very few meals/snacks that can be purchased from your stores.
My daughter has a dairy allergy, not may I say because it is fashionable but because if makes her ill. For her to try and purchase a sandwich/snack in your store is impossible unless of course she wants fresh vegetables or fruit, but let’s be realistic that is not really what most people would choose is it? Every type of crisps, the majority of your cakes and puddings, very, very many of your ‘ready meals’ and even the cold meats that you offer all contain milk. The only concession you have made is that you have recently started to sell soya milk or goats milk and cheese.
I went to your Milton Keynes store last Friday and decided to try and buy something for dinner that evening. Everything that my husband picked up had to be declined as it contained milk.This is so exasperating and eventually we gave up and went to Waitrose. Now I am sure that I am not the only person who does this and for a forward thinking store like Marks & Spencer, surely that is bad news and also not good business sense to be losing customers this way.
I did write to your Milton Keynes store a few months ago complaining bitterly about this situation and did receive a reply enclosing a list of all the dairy free foods stocked. To be honest I really didn’t need to be told that fresh fruit was dairy free and they had totally missed my point!
Surely it would not be too difficult to provide a sandwich that had no butter/spread in it, with a filling that did not contain milk/cheese.
I recently read the article in the Mail on Sunday about how you were helping women who had difficulty in buying underwear due to having had mastectomies. There are some schools of thought that discourage women from eating dairy to help in the fight against breast cancer, my own mother’s Oncologist advised her against it and said that she should advise myself and my daughter to go dairy free. This would be made much easier if there were dairy free foods available that could be used as substitutes i.e. dairy free spreads, cheese, yoghurts, biscuits, cakes/sandwiches/ready meals etc.
Come on Mr. Rose, I’m sure you can do something to help.
Look forward to hearing your views.
Yesterday I received the following reply from one of Mr. Rose’s ‘personal team’:-
Thank you for taking the trouble to write to our Chief Executive, Stuart Rose. As a member of his personal team, he has asked me to reply on his behalf.
At Marks & Spencer we are aware of the varying needs of our customers, and so have been working very hard to improve our product ranges and the labelling of our food.
Care and attention has gone into ensuring that certain of our products are free from dairy; however we certainly appreciate that perhaps we could be doing more for our customers.
So that your constructive feedback can be carefully considered I have forwarded a copy of your letter on to our Dairy Buying Department.
Thank you again for getting in touch. I hope you will continue to purchase and enjoy M&S food with confidence
Now while I am grateful that I actually received a reply, they are really not giving much and why are they passing my letter to their DAIRY BUYING DEPARTMENT don’t they get it, I WANT DAIRY FREE.
I really feel that these big stores have just jumped on the bandwagon for ‘free from’ foods as they realise they can charge so much more for them, they give so little choice and should take a tip from the Australians who seem to be able to provide substitutes for every type of food (see the Cruelty Free Shop website) and these are all reasonably priced, unlike this country where you have to pay up to double the price of normal food. This is another bone of contention; why should you have to pay so much more for these foods?
I am now a very disgruntled antidairyfairy.
I have always disliked playing Monopoly as it is always the big boys who win, maybe I should just face the fact that I am just not ruthless enough.
My reason for mentioning Monopoly is that I had a very interesting discussion with the lovely lady who runs The Natural Health shop in Dunstable (my nearest health food store). Ella and I went in to buy some goodies – all dairy free of course – and we were telling her about the vast range of dairy free food available in Australia . She then went on to tell us that it is becoming increasingly difficult for small shops like her to obtain certain dairy/gluten free foods because the large supermarkets are buying in bulk from the wholesalers/manufacturers and in some cases, she has been told, it is on the proviso that they are not then made available to small healthfood shops.
She told us that her shop had been going for the last 9 years and up until the last 18 months or so she was able to purchase 1 off of certain foods requested by her customers. This is such a great service as some substitute foods look lovely in the jars or packets but can taste absolutely revolting and who wants to have to buy in bulk before knowing what it tastes like. For the last 18 months or so she has found that this is becoming increasingly difficult and in some cases was told that foods had been discontinued. She had no reason to disbelieve this until customers were telling her that they could now get the ‘discontinued’ product at the supermarket!
Now, I am all for the supermarkets upgrading their ideas and stock so that they cater for people with allergies but I do not agree with them doing so by making it difficult for the small businesses out there who have been catering for allergies for years.
It seems to me to be just another case of the big boys using their clout to bully the small boys and it’s just not on and let’s face it our freedom of choice as to where we shop is being eroded little by little and oh so stealthily.
Well have completed my first week as a dairy free fairy and it is hard. On Friday I went shopping with my husband – yes he did come willingly – and we couldn’t decide whether to go for something to eat or just to hit Marks & Spencer and buy something lovely to cook at home. Tried to tell the husband that it wouldn’t be easy but he just thought I was exagerrating, little did he know. Well he wanted nachos to pick at whilst we were cooking – I told him we wouldn’t be able to buy any nachos/crisps of any sort because they would all contain milk but bless him he rifled through every type, reading the back and then grumpily decided we would have something else. Everything he picked up had milk in so I had to dash his hopes and say “no can do”. I did suggest we ate separate things but he was having none of that. In the end we went to Waitrose who,it would seem, do grasp the fact that there are some of us out there who just have to have dairy/wheat free food. Now although I love M & S food it’s a big hurrah for Waitrose and a big thumbs down for M & S.
Now all I have to do is write to Stuart Rose at M & S and ask him what his thoughts on the subject are …. I will let you know.
P.S. Would love a bar of chocolate.