November 28, 2020

New research underlines the rise and rise of free-from foods

New research from Product of the Year, the UK’s biggest survey of product innovation, has shown that there is a considerable appetite for free-from foods – with global sales rising year on year.

UK consumers were asked to identify the free-from foods they would be most likely to try with more than one-third (35%) opting for gluten/wheat-free (the top answer) with 29% saying they would be most likely to try dairy-free products with 24% citing sugar-free as the preferred healthier alternative.

Free-from products, that were once the domain of specialist shops and hard-to-find supermarket shelves have now moved into the mainstream with consumers opting for free-from products out of choice (as opposed to necessity) with environmental positives factoring alongside health benefits. According to Nielsen, in the four weeks to 16th May the free-from sector gained £33.8m (+17.6%) compared to same period last year with dairy-free alternatives reaping the biggest value gains with, according to Oatly, an estimated 32% of UK households now buying dairy-free milk.

Not surprisingly big-name brands have woken up to the potential of the free-from sector and in July this year everyone’s favourite retro biscuit – the Jammie Dodger – announced that it is now free from animal products and vegan. “We have listened to our biscuit fans,” said Kate Needham, Marketing Director at Burtons Biscuits “and are pleased to announce that we’ve moved once again to a dairy-free recipe.”

Gü also added to its hugely popular free-from range this year with the launch of its free from Salted Caramel Cheesecakes; Ella’s Kitchen brought the UK’s first dairy-free babyfood pouches to market – made with coconut milk instead of cow’s milk and in June Swiss dairy giant Emmi launched its first plant-based brand Beleaf – which is certified vegan and encompasses a range of plant-based drinks, yoghurt alternatives and cultured shots made with almonds and oats.

Over the years a number of free-from products have walked away with the iconic Product of the Year trophy, winning the right to use the coveted red logo. Muller’s Lactose-Free Fruit Corner won in 2019 with Unilever’s Flora Freedom Dairy Free Spread scoring a win in 2017. Other free-from products that have picked up awards include Goodfella’s Gluten Free Pizza and Nescafe Gold Dairy Alternative Lattes.

Product of the Year 2021 closes for entries 31st October – although a few categories remain open. More details can be found here.