Gluten free in the UAE could change the way you shop Discuss this article

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This week a parcel arrived at the Time Out Abu Dhabi office. In it were ciabatta rolls, sliced bread and a box of chocolate covered digestives. The parcel was addressed to a certain gluten-intolerant food editor, who gingerly made herself a cup of tea, extracted a curiously normal looking biscuit from its packaging, dunked it and took a bite. What followed nearly brought on-looking colleagues to tears. This digestive was the first we’d had in over three years, and it did not taste of chalk or those wood-shavings that your hamster nests in. It tasted, well, like a digestive, and oh what an easy thing that is to take for granted.

We have one woman to thank for this and her name is Katinka Socrat. Katinka launched, and is the managing partner of, Taste Life – the gluten-free online supermarket. Goodbye scouring grocery store aisles for remotely edible gluten-free food. There is now a highly informative and refreshingly user-friendly online market that brings together the best of what’s globally available. It takes under a minute to fill in the new account form (after which you’ll only ever need to log in) and then you can take as much time as you like browsing and clicking. When it’s all done, wheel your virtual trolley to the checkout... only get this, there is none. Well there is, if you want to pay by credit card, but if don’t all you need do is tick the ‘pay on delivery’ option and voilà. Your parcel will normally arrive in a day (maximum two) and when it does, you simply pay the delivery man. As for our verdict on the products: honestly, we couldn’t recommend them highly enough or more vehemently.

Who is the genius mind behind this fantastic new service – you’re doubtless asking. Hailing from Hamburg in Germany, Katinka herself is gluten-intolerant and her personal journey has a lot to do with why Taste Life is here to change our lives. So we asked her to give us the whole story.

Can you tell us how and when you were diagnosed as intolerant?
When I was 19 I became so sick that I wasn’t able to go to school anymore. After numerous tests the doctors found out that I had Celiac disease. But since Celiac or gluten-intolerance was not well known at the time, my doctor sent me home with the words ‘you have Celiac, don’t eat any wheat bread or pasta.’ So I started eating a whole lot of rye bread – which has gluten as well of course, and of course I was not getting better at all. When I moved to Dubai ten years ago, matters got worse because at the time, there was absolutely nothing gluten-free. I used to think that the immediate symptoms I get when I eat gluten (stomach ache, nausea, migraines to name a few) were all that was happening to my body. Little did I know that underneath all that pain, I was destroying my health.

When did your journey to gluten-freedom begin?
When I was 25. I was sitting at my desk at work one morning with quite a lot of back pain and just couldn’t get up anymore. I was admitted to the hospital and flown to Germany, where the doctors found out that I had a fractured spine due to the loss of bone density – which is a common result of Celiac disease or gluten-intolerance. Surgery to fuse my spine followed. I was in such a terrible condition that I had to make a 180 degree shift with my health and my gluten-free diet. The hardest part of going gluten-free is that you always think there is nothing to eat anymore, while in fact you can still have all your favourites, pizza, pasta, bread, cookies, just with new and different ingredients.

And how did you decide to launch
My husband and I decided to start We wanted to make those much-missed products available for the people in the Middle East who are suffering just like I was. When I found the UAE-based support group Glutenfree UAE, it gave us the final push to put the business on its feet. We spent three months tasting and trying every gluten-free product and brand that we could get our hands on and selected the very best in taste and texture that the market has to offer. Living gluten-free myself I have a pretty good idea what people miss the most, so I paid particular attention to bread. So we offer the widest and most delicious selection of ready-made, certified gluten-free bread in the UAE.

How have you found that the response has been so far?
So far the response has been overwhelming! What makes all the work and effort worthwhile are emails from customers, or parents of children, who can finally enjoy mealtimes again or don’t feel left out when the family is having a pizza night. We are continuously encouraging people to recommend products on our Facebook page, and we try our best to offer them in our online supermarket. We are only just starting up but have big, gluten-free plans for the future.

We’re looking forward to them! And what would you say are your favourite foods?
Wow, there are so many. I definitely love the breads! I think right now the ciabatta rolls and light white rice flax loaf are my favourites. For cereal, the Brookfarm macadamia and cranberry muesli is definitely the winner and totally addictive. And cookies! I have three favourites: the chocolate digestives, the choco-butter biscuits, and the petit butter biscuits.
For more info or to order your gluten-free foods today, visit

By Elest Ali
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

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