Free-from foods

Free-from – a passing trend or here to stay?

In recent years there has been a significant rise in recognised food allergies and intolerances, leading to a shift in the ranges of specialist diet-compatible foods available. Gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy-free products have moved from specialist suppliers and health food retailers to dedicated sections in supermarket aisles, and more recently alongside mainstream products, reports UK research company, RTS Resource.

In addition to diagnosed food allergies, says RTS, there is growing demand from consumers without allergies who are seeking to reduce gluten, dairy and processed sugar from their diets. In some countries, such as the US, consumers are turning to gluten-free and dairy-free diets because they perceive them to be healthier. Often, consumers perceive that they have a problem with certain foods, adding to demand for ‘free-from’ products.

In the UK, a recent study by Portsmouth University found that while ’20% of adults in Britain claim they are unable to eat foods from milk to mustard, fewer than 2% actually have an intolerance.’ This research was challenged by several food allergy commentators – but whatever the true scale of the problem, the fact remains that today’s consumers are more conscious of the foods they eat than ever before.

Passing trend or here to stay?
Just as ‘natural’ products are becoming a consumer expectation rather than a niche market, free-from could soon be following in the same direction. Many of the well-known brands are reformulating products and expanding product ranges to include free-from products and some companies are adding claims to products such as smoothies to reassure consumers of their free-from credentials.

According to The Grocer this trend is here to stay with sales of free-from products totalling £199.5 million (52w/e 17 April 2011) in the UK alone an increase of 14.5% year-on-year.

It states that sales of free-from products have grown across many product categories from bakery to dairy to frozen prepared foods. This represents an opportunity for suppliers and manufacturers to develop new free-from ranges as well as offering free-from versions of their most popular products.

This is just one example of how trends are driving growth in today’s complex food and drink market. As consumers actively seek to lead healthier lifestyles, health and wellbeing represents a significant opportunity for suppliers and manufacturers to add value.

RTS Resource: Read more