So, just exactly who is eating free-from in the UK? it’s the golden question for UK free-from brands.
But, before we get to that…
What is free-from?
I’m sure that as a consumer for the past few years now you’ve seen the term ‘free-from’ knocking around the supermarket aisles, but what does free-from even mean?
If you typed it into trusty Google the term throws up the following:
Denoting or relating to food products that do not contain ingredients known to cause a reaction in people with food allergies or intolerances.
“An increased demand for meat-free and free-from foods”
So, this in short refers to all forms of free-from foods, like gluten-free, lactose-free, soy-free to name a few, and a whole gaggle of others that would simply take up the whole blog to name.
The free-from future is bright
It’s fair to say the free from category is growing at pace, with brands who traditionally don’t make free from products now jumping on the band wagon to occupy the space, alongside those brands who are rooted in it.
But knowing who is choosing to eat free from products is one of the most important questions a brand owner must ask themselves before embarking on developing a product and also marketing it. Without this knowledge they simply can’t get the message right to reach those potential customers in the right way.
People with an allergic reaction to gluten (coeliacs) have no choice but to seek out gluten free and other free from products.
The size of the UK market in this category of people represents a mere 1% of the UK population.
So that’s about 600,000 people.
But those choosing to buy and consume free from is a very different story, and a much bigger size of the pie.
We will be looking at drilling down into the lifestyles of these people and finding out who exactly they are, what rocks their boat and why they are choosing go to free from, er…all that nasty stuff!
So, who is eating free-from?
Less than 20% of the population in the UK have an allergen that causes them to have to shop for free-from products – so, why such a rise in demand?
In fact, one in four Brits (27% of the population) say they themselves or someone else in their household avoids certain ingredients as part of a general healthy lifestyle.
And because of this growing tendency of consumers checking the backs of packets it has emerged that the free-from aisle is growing at an exponential rate.
Less than 10 years ago gluten-sufferers would struggle to find a tasty alternative, having to stick to small but relatively unknown brands for their morning round of toast.
These days coeliacs have a whole host of brands to choose from, and products to go with it. From white bread to brown, bagels to crumpets, the sufferer no longer has to limit themselves in their diet.
It means that those who eschew dairy no longer need to miss out on a mid-morning yoghurt but can happily slurp down an alternative with plenty of choices from supermarkets own brand or even the likes of Alpro, Arla or many of the other brands that are helping their customers to lead a relatively normal diet.
In 2017 it was reported that there was a £230 million growth in the free-from industry as shoppers reached for the ‘plant-based’ products over the traditional.
The quality of the products of course.
According to The Grocer, a poll ran by Harris International asked over 2,000 consumers why there’s such a demand for free-from products and the answer was simple: the taste.
Here are the top line cold hard facts of who regularly buys free-from products:
53% – 16-24 year olds
64% – 25-34 year olds
59% – 35-44 year olds
40% – 45-54 year olds
25% – over 55s.
Of course, the most likely group to buy were health conscious, aged between 25-34 and based in London – meaning their recent purchases were more of a lifestyle choice than a necessity.
It has also been stated, according to a UK survey by Mintel, that the free-from food industry is expected to hit £637 million by 2020, meaning it’s a great time to be a free-from brand launching in the next couple of years.
Due to the demand, there’s now room on the shelves for a gluten-free, lactose-free, sugar-free, *insert more allergen free details here* products that won’t be stuck at the back of the store in a cobwebbed corner, instead they’ll be loud and proud and amongst some pretty fine company.