Niece's diagnosis leads to gluten-free business

A Harrogate online retail expert has taken a bite out of the growing gluten-free food market after her young niece was diagnosed with coeliac disease.

Thursday, 4th October 2018, 4:57 pm
Updated Friday, 5th October 2018, 4:10 pm
Carleen Booth, founder of Freya's Gluten Free World, with her niece, Freya Lehan, after whom the business is named.

Carleen Booth initially launched Freya’s Gluten Free World – named after her niece, Freya Lehan – as a blog to share her sister’s experiences of having a child with the condition, but has now taken it to the next step by launching a gluten-free food shop.

Drawing on her two decades working for businesses including O2, Mamas & Papas, Betty & Taylors of Harrogate and Fortnum & Mason as head of online and digital, Carleen teamed up with Tanya McMullen, who headed up grocery-buying at Fortnum’s, to create three different gluten-free boxes that can be purchased as one-offs or on monthly subscriptions: family staples, on-the-go, and sweet treats.

Coeliac disease, which affects one in 100 people, is an autoimmune disease caused 
by a reaction to gluten. Sympt-oms include diarrhoea, constipation, stomach cramps, mouth ulcers, fatigue and anaemia. It is treated by keeping to a gluten-free diet for life.

Carleen, who runs her business from Knaresborough Technology Park, said of her niece’s diagnosis: “It was a life-changing moment, not only for her, but also her parents and her sister, as her diet had to completely change.

“The gluten-free market is worth approximately £500m a year in the UK, yet it’s not always easy to find specific gluten-free products, particularly for children. Because of my background, Freya asked if ‘Auntie Carleen’ could help, and I did.

“We now have a growing client base with customers located across the UK. Freya is the chief food-tester and if it doesn’t pass the ‘Freya taste test’ we won’t stock it.

“Initially Freya felt she was different, but not in a good way. Thanks to her involvement with the website she still knows she’s different – but in a good way, and that’s how we want all our customers to feel.”