In a video blog post on the market research organisation’s website, senior food and nutrition analyst Roberto Fernandez said the sector grew 11% in value terms in 2014, and it is estimated to continue to expand with a compound annual growth rate of 5% to 2020.
“The growth of this industry hasn’t only come from consumers. It is also being driven by manufacturers and distributors,” he said, adding that availability of free-from foods has improved dramatically in recent years.
“Innovation has been key in this industry. Now we can see gluten-free pizza, gluten-free bread, gluten-free breakfast cereals, we can see gluten-free everything basically everywhere. So these are the reasons why this industry has been booming over the past few years, and in fact Euromonitor predicts that this will continue to be the case.”
Apart from manufacturers’ role, this was also to do with a rising number of people being diagnosed with food allergies and intolerances – the core target audience for free-from foods – but consumption of these products goes far beyond food intolerant members of society.
“It is reaching other segments of the population who don’t necessarily need these products but also consume them, for example, family members,” he said, adding that it may not make sense to stock both regular and lactose-free milk in the household fridge, or to cook a gluten-free as well as a regular pasta dish if there is a food intolerant individual in the family.
However, it is a trend that reaches further than those directly associated with food intolerance, including those who believe eating certain foods might prevent food allergies from developing, or those who simply consider free-from foods to be healthier.