In 2020, sales of Free From food & drink in the UK reached a staggering £1 billion with value growth of 16.9%.
By the end of 2019, the market had started to show signs of slowing down, but in early 2020 as the pandemic started to take hold the sector benefited from an influx of new buyers amid stock shortages on standard lines, as well as the shift from foodservice into retail. The Free From sector had a lot to offer these new shoppers with its increasingly broad selection of branded & own label products across the major multiples.
Dairy-free dominates the Free From sector with 59% (+23%), a reflection of the recent boom in plant-based diets. The Gluten/Wheat-free sector has also enjoyed good growth but at a slower rate (+9%).
This sector, which had been showing signs of saturation less than two years ago, suddenly has a new lease of life. There are new shoppers in the aisles and they have a much wider remit when it comes to buying Free From food & drink.
Why buy Free From?
52% of people in the UK report avoidance of some food or ingredients in their household, peaking at 63% of under 25’s. Their reasons…
31% for lifestyle reasons (such as sustainability and ethical concerns)
26% are motivated by perceived health benefits
21% have allergies / intolerance
So the Free From sectors original ‘reason for being’ has seemingly been overtaken by a wider consumer demand centred around lifestyle & health. This presents both opportunities & risks – we’ve looked at 3 considerations for up & coming Free From brands:
- Shake off the ‘poor value for money’ image
A watch out for the category is that 40% of Free From shoppers will be put off purchasing higher priced Free From products when money is tight. Brands (and retailers) must work hard to either close the gap between Free From & its standard equivalent, or clearly demonstrate excellent value for money. Asda is helping to break down the price barrier, and slashed its Free From essentials range in Oct 2020 with a £6million investment.
- Nutrition matters
Just because a product is Free From does not mean it is good for you. Fewer than 1 in 10 adults associate dairy-free or gluten-free food & drink with being nutritious. Given the accelerated health trend resulting from the pandemic, products that go beyond their standard counterparts when it comes to nutritional excellence will offer a compelling point of difference. THIS are a great example – meat free food that is packed with nutritional credentials: high protein, low in sat fat, source of fibre, one of your 5 a day, fortified with B12 & iron…the list goes on!
- Indulgent treat
Dispelling the theory that Free From foods are inferior in taste & flavour, emerging products that deliver indulgence & adventure are really breaking through. Brands have responded to the rise in self-treating that people have turned to through difficult times, with Free From products that meet that need. Gü’s Fabulously Free From range has been extended to include Salted Caramel Cheesecake indicating its success, and OGGS plant based cakes has landed extensive distribution across the major mults with its range of ambient sweet treats.
It’s an exciting time for the sector that has evolved enormously in the last five years. With more relevance than ever before for consumers young & old, the longer term outlook for Free From is good. If products can keep up the pace on innovation whilst meeting evolving shopper needs, the future looks bright for Free From.
Wynne Business specialise in launching products & driving brand growth with UK retailers. We can help with any aspect of the sales & marketing process & offer tailor made packages for SME’s. Speak to us about your brand today!
Source : Mintel Free From Foods Report Feb 2021