Wider appeal in ‘free from’ foods is redefining requirements

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Related tags: Consumer protection, Us

The gluten-free segment is set to rapidly grow, driven by a wider appeal from health-focused consumers but manufacturers must be innovative with taste and texture amid an expectant consumer group, according to a new Leatherhead report.

The study Food Allergies and Intolerances: Consumer Perceptions and Market Opportunities for ‘Free From’ Foods ​compiled by UK research organisation Leatherhead, details that the ‘free from’ foods market has seen growth in all sectors and countries driven by a new wider appeal.

Laura Kempster, senior analyst at Leatherhead, told FoodNavigator.com that with a large proportion of growth being driven by consumers without allergies and intolerances, “there will be an increasing demand for ‘free from’ foods which taste good, are reasonably priced and deliver the health benefit consumers are looking for.”

Ingredient and technology innovations will need to be a key focus for manufacturers and suppliers to successfully drive growth, according to the report.

“The continuing expansion of available ingredients and methods of processing these will be a key point for development,”​ she continued, and “many manufacturers we spoke to expressed interest in working closely with ingredients suppliers.”

Solutions to improve taste, texture and formulation of the foods and liken them to mainstream products, needs to be a key important focus for manufacturers and ingredients suppliers, Kempster added.

Growth and segment opportunities

The dairy-free and lactose-free segment is pegged as the largest across the Western European and US markets, worth US$3.6bn in 2010. However gluten-free is just behind at $3.5bn and is flagged as the sector with most growth potential.

Almost 3,000 new products with ‘suitable for’ or ‘free from’ claims were launched in 2010 across the US and Western Europe markets, representing 10% of all NPDs that year. Gluten-free was the most common single claim made on new product launches.

Kempster said “the broadening of appeal in ‘free from’ foods is led by the perceived health benefits of incorporating these foods into a healthy diet as well as those simply looking to omit certain ingredients from their diet.”

“These ‘avoiders’ represent much of the future growth anticipated for this market as they represent a larger section of the population and, in part, because more consumers are tempted to alter their diet as more ‘free from’ options become readily available and as general understanding in this area builds,” ​she added.

No longer niche

Within Europe, a major move is household, mainstream brands launching ‘free from’ products, she said, such as Warburtons and Arla with Lactofree and pasta brands in Italy, such as Barilla including gluten-free in its range.

The presence of well-recognised brands will drive interest in the ‘free from’ category and encourage consumer buy-in, the report said.

Related topics: Market Trends

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