ONCE a category only shopped by the few, free from is now for the many with the number of products making ingredient-based claims swelling in number to meet demand from ever more selective consumers.
This trend isn’t going anywhere according to the choir of producers singing the praises of free from as they bank on even more growth in the years ahead.
Jan McKee, executive head of marketing for pizza at Dr. Oetker UK, says the free-from market is booming at the moment, with the number of shoppers picking up gluten-free predicted to rise.
“Consumers are now looking for a gluten-free alternative, that isn’t a compromise on taste, with 50% growth predicted in gluten-free products by 2019,” she said.
Rebecca Vercoe, brand controller for Mrs Crimble’s at Wessanen UK, agreed that retailers should expect to see even more growth and suggested stores that stand out through their free-from range could attract a wealthier set of customers.
“We predict that free from will be a future staple in people’s diets, such as pasta or yogurt have become.
“Free-from shoppers are loyal, high-value shoppers, and are likely to return to a store that has a strong and varied selection of products,” she said.
The high-value nature of free-from was also highlighted by Noelma Duque, category manager at Rachel’s Organic, who had some figures to back up optimism for the future.
Duque said: “The total free-from category was worth £470m in 2015 and the Mintel group has predicted that it will grow by 43% in the next five years, reaching £673m by 2020.”
There was no disagreement from Roger Harrop of Schar on free from’s future prospects, although the category manager did suggest the rate of growth may ease up a little this year.
“We expect free from market growth to continue during 2018, but at a slower pace,” said Harrop.
“However, we predict gluten free will continue with double-digit growth, possibly at around +15.8% year on year, due to increased awareness of gut conditions and continuing improvement of product choice and taste.
“In addition, as retailer’s appreciation of the growth and potential of the gluten free category continues, we also expect to see increased product offering across more stores, improved fixture layout and amplification of products in store, which will further support category growth.”