ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre recently hosted a free-from food seminar with speakers from Kantar Worldpanel, Coeliac UK and Cardiff Met University. Preparing for and attending the seminar has changed my perception of the free-from market. I now have a better understanding of the importance of gluten free foods in the lives of people who suffer from coeliac disease.
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, barley and rye. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues when you eat gluten. This causes damage to the gut’s lining and means the body can’t properly absorb nutrients from food. This is serious. It ruins lives. The symptoms can range from stomach pain to permanent fatigue. About 1 in 100 of us have coeliac disease, although many sufferers have not yet been diagnosed.
The charity Coeliac UK provides independent and expert information for sufferers, campaigns for better access to gluten free food and researches the nature of the disease and potential cures. The charity manages the Crossed Grain accreditation scheme that enables producers to reassure consumers of a product’s gluten free credentials.
In recent years it has become easier to buy free-from food. This is reflected in the 36% year on year growth presented by Kantar and the free-from sector is worth £1.5bn. It’s not surprising that there are numerous new free-from product launches in both retail and food-service.
The sector may now be at a crossroads. The sector’s size and growth has attracted larger brands (e.g. Nestle, McVitie’s) which is putting more pressure on the smaller, innovative brands that helped create the sector. Whilst most free-from ranges are currently merchandised in a dedicated fixture, space may not be at such a premium as it would be if the products were to move into the parent fixtures. In time, this may change and may result in a culling of free-from ranges as sales and profitability expectations are expected to meet the parent category’s levels.
To marketeers, retailers and category managers the free-from sector represents a growth opportunity. To coeliac disease sufferers, the free-from sector represents an opportunity to eat food without suffering unpleasant symptoms.
To find out more about coeliac disease, please visit www.coeliacuk.org.uk
For technical support with developing free-from products, get in touch with the ZERO2FIVE team on 02920 416306.
Martin Sutherland, Commercial and Marketing Director