Leading food industry analysts are predicting that lactose-free and high protein attributes could drive the next phase of growth for the free-from sector, which also continues to benefit from growing numbers people committing to veganism.
Speaking ahead of the upcoming Free-From/Functional Food Expo in Barcelona (8-9 June 2017), Hamish Renton, managing director of Hamish Renton Associates – a keynote speaker at the event – said: “If there is a star in the free from sky, it’s lactose-free. The growth rates, the rate of product development, the weight of marketing investment behind the leading brands, and the expansion of distribution mean that the lactose free category is set for very rapid growth.
“High protein is a wave that is breaking across all of grocery. It would be good to see free from brands looking at ways to boost their protein content to appeal to this trend.”
Another headline speaker in Barcelona, David Jago, innovation and insight director from Mintel, commented: “Despite economic uncertainty in some parts of the world, free from foods continued to perform well in 2016. Growth may be slowing down in some markets as the sector reaches a degree of maturity, but with double-digit growth rates in most countries this is still one of the most dynamic segments in the food industry and will remain so in the foreseeable future, with millennials driving the trend.
In 2016, a record 12% of all new products launched in Europe were labelled “gluten free”. In Europe as a whole, 6% of all new products were labelled as “vegan”, but that rose to a high of 9% in the UK and an astonishing 14% in Germany, where veganism has boomed – “flexitarianism” is the driver, with consumers increasingly opting for a wider variety of foods including meat free and dairy free options.
Naturally gluten free ingredients, such as ancient grains, wheat alternatives and grain free formulations are also on the rise. Refined wheat avoidance (rather than gluten per se) is a major driver for those eating gluten free.”
Free From/Functional Food Expo 2017 exhibition director, Ronald Holman, added: “Demand for free from foods is increasing as consumers look to make healthier lifestyle choices. Vegan and vegetarian diets are becoming more popular with consumers switching to natural, vegetable and plant-based food and drink.
Consumers are also demanding more and more gluten free grab-and-go snacks, and cereals as breakfast remains one of the most important meals of the day. Breakfast is a big opportunity for free from food businesses, with 55% of shoppers eating it at home. Also consumers are looking to fuel their day with something healthy, quick and easy to prepare.
Functional products continue to grow in demand, with consumers looking for added benefits in their food and drink – such as protein, and pro and prebiotics.”
- Free From Food Expo and Functional Food Expo take place on 8-9 June at Fira Barcelona