tesco revamped free from aisle

If sugar is public enemy number one in today’s health-obsessed age, there are a number of ingredients vying for the dubious title of public enemy number two, among them gluten, lactose and a whole host of grains. 

And it’s not because we’ve developed allergies overnight. One fifth of Brits now regularly shop the free-from aisle, a Harris Interactive poll of 2,018 consumers for The Grocer revealed last November, yet just 13% of those polled said they had a medical condition or intolerance requiring them to do so.

No, Brits are ditching products that contain gluten, wheat and lactose because products free from such ingredients are perceived as being better for you. Thirty five per cent of Brits buy such products for their “general health”; 28% say it’s a “lifestyle choice”.

No wonder sales are booming. Free-from sales are up £123.3m [Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e 27 March 2016], a 26.7% gain on volumes up 19.5%. That’s an acceleration of the growth we reported a year ago. What’s more, this sector defies the now familiar pattern of falling sales for the major mults and soaring growth for the discounters. 

So what’s driving this growth? And with NPD continuing at a blistering rate (we profile here no fewer than 24 launches, a record for us) is free-from becoming the new normal?