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Interview Bio Eco Actual with Show Director Ronald Holman


Q: How has the Free From market evolved in recent years and what are the prospects for the future?

A: We’ve seen the free-from market experience exponential growth over the past few years.  In fact, the market is currently estimated to be worth US$80.8 billion globally and expected to reach more than US$150 billion by 2028 – growth of some 13.25%[1].


Driving growth is a combination of more people reporting allergies and food intolerances[2], and the growth of consumers increasingly turning to free-from foods as a healthier choice.


For instance, in the UK, there are an estimated two million people with a diagnosed food allergy and approximately 600,000 with Coeliac Disease[3].


However, outside of official medical diagnosis we know that there are many more people who believe they have a sensitivity or intolerance to certain foods: Allergy UK reports that up to 20% of the British population experience reactions to foods[4]. And the situation certainly appears to be similar in Europe where it’s estimated that anywhere between 11 million and 26 million people suffer from a food allergy, which Allergy UK says equates to around seven billion of the global population[5].


Q: How do dietary trends and lifestyles, such as veganism or the gluten-free diet, influence the Free From food market?

A: The free-from food market originally developed predominantly out of the need for gluten, dairy, or nut-free products, such as bread, snacks and other prepared foods. However, as time has gone on and the market has developed, consumers increasingly view many free-from foods as offering general health benefits over and above the absence of one or more ingredients. That’s because some free-from foods tend to be minimally processed or are perceived to be more ‘natural’ than other products.


At the same time, the recent exponential rise of meat-free, plant-based diets is another facet of free-from that barely existed just a few years ago. An EU-funded study[6] in 2021 found a 49% rise in Europeans’ consumption of plant-based foods across meat, milk, yoghurt, cheese, ice-cream and fish categories in the two previous years, resulting in sales of €3.6 billion and highlighting they are no longer a niche the preserve of animals lovers and environmentalists 


Q: What strategies are effective in reaching and attracting consumers interested in Free From foods?

A: Clear labelling is absolutely vital for free-from brands…alongside wider health or environmental benefits that can help them stand out from the plethora of other products on the market. For retailers, well signposted shelves help shoppers to distinguish free-from foods, obviously particularly important for people with from allergies or intolerances. Mintel’s latest food and drink insights[7] stresses the need for product packaging to clearly state USPs and benefits, which of course includes any free-from credentials.


In terms of how to reach consumers, social media has been, and continues to be, pivotal if Instagram hashtags are anything to go by. It’s where brands promote themselves to potential and current consumers and where free-from influencers post recipes and food inspiration. #glutenfree has more than 41m posts on Instagram alone, #freefrom and #nutfree around 800,000 posts each and #freefromfood around 50,000 posts.


Q: What is your vision for the future of the Free From food market?
The free-from market is here to stay, and we see that people are choosing free-from products as part of a conscious effort to eat more healthily – not just because they have an allergy or intolerance. I believe that increasingly more foods previously considered as ‘mainstream’ will incorporate elements of free-from where recipes and technologies allow – for instance, we may increasingly see brands switching grains to make more items gluten-free, or using dairy substitutes.


Certainly, free-from is no longer considered the ‘fad’ diet it might have been just a few years ago…and it’s clear that globally demand is rising[8], so we’re expecting more and more food manufacturers to cater for those demands. And of course, there is still much room for innovation from brands willing to invest both in unique recipes and flavours, and in consumer research to better understand consumer needs.


Pre-registration is now open via www.freefromfoodexpo.com.

[1] https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/free-from-food-market

[3] https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/media/document/fsa-20-01-08-annex-food-hypersensitivity-strategy.pdf

[4] https://www.allergyuk.org/about-allergy/statistics-and-figures/

[5] https://www.allergyuk.org/about-allergy/statistics-and-figures/

[7] https://www.mintel.com/food-and-drink-market-news/global-food-and-drink-trends/

Expo Business Communications, Ronald Holman, Show Director

Free From Food 2024

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