free from aisle

More than a quarter of Brits now regularly buy free-from products, according to exclusive research for The Grocer. Twenty-seven per cent of 2,035 consumers polled by Harris Interactive said they regularly bought lactose, dairy, gluten or grain-free products - up from 19% a year ago.

But just 14% of those consumers said they had a medical condition that required them to avoid gluten and other allergens. The most cited reason for going free-from was “for my general health”, with 31% choosing this option. Twenty-seven per cent said it was a lifestyle choice, and 23% chose products to avoid “feeling bloated”.

Well&Truly co-founder Sara Trechman put the trend for free-from down to younger shoppers’ desire for ‘clean’ food and healthier eating options. “A lot of free-from products are moving towards natural ingredients and stripping out artificial additives,” she said.

Free-from products “used to taste horrible” but were now “just as good as regular food”, added Trechman. “So why not go for a product that’s cleaner in its ingredients and better for you?”

The rising popularity of free-from showed no sign of slowing, she said. “I see it growing a lot. Supermarkets are looking to push the products into their core aisles.”

There were “huge opportunities” in the free-from category, which was forecast to grow by almost 50% by 2018/19, added Peter Douglass, MD of Welsh Hills Bakery, maker of free-from biscuits, cakes and pies. “It’s bound to plateau, but I don’t think the trend is going to go away because people actually feel better for avoiding wheat and the like.”