The Free From market currently has an estimated value of £365m, after enjoying a strong period of growth over the past five years.
Greater awareness and diagnosis of food and drink allergies and intolerances, as well as a rise in the number of consumers switching to Free From as part of a healthier lifestyle – are helping to fuel the boom.
That has triggered a huge increase in the number of new Free From product launches, particularly gluten free – to meet demand, highlighting the need for boutique hoteliers to better cater for this growing sector with carefully tailored menus in their restaurants.
The boom has also seen more exhibitors keen to showcase their innovative Free From products at this year’s Free From Food/Ingredients trade show – which takes place in Barcelona on June 4th and 5th, where more than 200 exhibitors from around the globe will be taking part.
Just under four in ten people in the UK live in households where someone is avoiding a specific food or ingredient, according to experts at Mintel. It may be a lifestyle choice – or equally because of an allergy – with those aged between 25 and 34 years-old more likely to be avoiding certain foods.
Around 10 per cent of all food and drink launches in the UK now carry a gluten free claim – while launches featuring lactose-related claims are much less common at just one per cent.
Going forwards, the future of Free From is bright – and is forecast to grow by more than 50 per cent by 2019 to an estimated £551million. However, performance of the category will depend on new product development and expanding distribution. Both are important to bring new consumers to the market.
Hamish Renton, one of the founders of the Free From Food/Ingredients trade show – and an industry expert, says new labelling laws which came into force at the end of last year – are also likely to help the category expand.
"Foodservice outlets will become more aware of their free from offerings and the need to cater to these customers. With the foodservice market for gluten free foods worth an estimated £100m, this is good news for outlets willing to cater to this audience," said Mr Renton.
Ronald Holman, Free From Food/Ingredients exhibition director, added: "Research by Mintel shows the Free From market has come far in just five years in the UK. It may not yet be at the same level as the US – but it is booming and expected to grow further.
That can only be good news for those who buy and supply Free From food and ingredients. This scenario is mirrored at Free From Food/ Ingredients 2015 which has grown in just three years. These are truly exciting times for the category and Free From Food/ Ingredients 2015."