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Niece’s diagnosis leads to gluten-free business

Carleen Booth, founder of Freya's Gluten Free World, with her niece, Freya Lehan, after whom the business is named.
Carleen Booth, founder of Freya's Gluten Free World, with her niece, Freya Lehan, after whom the business is named.

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.

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.”