Sainsbury's Hook 001

Source: Sainsbury’s

Sainsbury’s is trialling the new, expanded format in an initial 20 stores

Sainsbury’s is expanding its offering of gluten-free products, with the introduction of a new format that combines frozen, ambient and chilled free-from products in one aisle.

The 20-store trial is understood to be the first time Sainsbury’s has combined all three categories in a single area in-store dedicated solely to free-from foods. It follows a similar move by Morrisons and M&S, which both offer expanded free-from areas, rather than spreading the respective categories across different areas of the shop. 

The new “departments” stock a mixture of Sainsbury’s own label and branded products, including gluten-free oatcakes from Nairn’s, free-from pizza and pasta lines from White Rabbit and gluten-free fajita kits from Old El Paso.

A mixture of gluten-free beer lines, free-from ingredients lines and snacks are also among the products on offer.

“We’re passionate about providing ‘Good food for all of us’, whatever our customers’ budgets, tastes or dietary requirements,” a Sainsbury’s spokesman told The Grocer.

“That’s why we’re currently trialling a change in some Sainsbury’s stores to bring all the free-from products we sell together in one location in-store.

“Whether customers are looking for delicious chilled products, frozen food or cupboard essentials, the aim is to make it as easy and convenient as possible for them to find a great selection that excludes specific allergens according to their needs or preferences.”

To coincide with the trial, Sainsbury’s has added new free-from products to its premium and middle-tier own label ranges – Taste the Difference and By Sainsbury’s – and updated the signage and added new displays to the free-from sections across its store estate.

Move would make it easier for shoppers

Allergy campaigners have welcomed the move. 

Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, co-founder of The Natasha Allergy Research Foundation said the new bays would send a “positive message” to millions of food-allergic and food-intolerant shoppers.

“It says they understand how difficult life is shopping for food and want to make the experience easier,” Ednan-Laperouse said.

“Customers will be encouraged to try new products and shop more broadly across the category which is good news for brands. “With free-from now a £1bn category, it is only right that making it easier to shop in store is being closely looked at by grocers.”

A 2022 survey from the charity Coeliac UK found that 85% of customers said they had to use more than one retail store to fulfil their gluten-free food needs. For consumers that need to switch to gluten-free, 82% reported that shopping now took longer.

“We welcome initiatives which make a positive difference for our gluten-free community,” said Christopher Kidd, Coeliac UK director of commercial services. “Shopping can be a challenge for those seeking gluten-free food. 

“We hope that the introduction of integrated free-from products displayed in the same area of the store will alleviate some of these challenges and make it easier for the community to find readily available gluten-free food, reducing the time spent searching for staple requirements.

“It is a step in the right direction and we’re very excited to see the results of the trial and reaction from the community,” Kidd said. 

The free-from expansion is the latest in a series of new formats launched by Sainsbury’s over the last few months, as it looks for new ways to widen its customer offer and improve the experience in-store.

In October, The Grocer revealed the launch of new self-serve charcuterie and Continental cheese formats in some of its larger stores. The supermarket has also begun rolling its Kitchen Deli self-serve range into its Local convenience stores.