To celebrate a new ‘freefrom’ year here is a brief run down of where ‘freefrom’ came from and where I think it could be going. Originally put together for a group of industry innovators at Food Matters Live in November, I thought it might be a positive way to start 2016!
A whistle stop tour through the history of allergy and coeliac disease.
- 1900- 1970s: allergy and coeliac disease both rare conditions – 1 in 500–800 of the population (UK, Europe and US) or less.
- 1970s to present day: dramatic growth in allergy (nut allergy from 1 in 800 to 1 in 50 today – coeliac disease from 1 in 300-500 to 1 in 70 today).
No one cause but many possibilities including the dramatic increase in number and timing of childhood vaccinations, overuse of antibiotics, mono-culture, pesticide use, over processing of foods, excess sugar in the diet, massive growth in the syse of man made electromagnetic radiation……
- 1990s to present day: growth of ‘self diagnosed’ food intolerants. Those whose health is compromised but have no diagnosable problem. Through alternative practitioners or personal experimentation they have found that excluding certain foods (usually highly processed, high gluten wheat products and dairy foods) improves their health significantly.
- 2000 to present day: growth of ‘voluntary freefrom-er’s – those choosing to eat freefrom foods (usually freefrom gluten and dairy and, increasingly, soya) because they believe they are healthier, more environmentally friendly etc etc.
- Up to mid 1990s: really did not exist
- 1990s–2005: growth of ‘artisan’ producers – those with allergy problems who had learnt to cook ‘freefrom’ for themselves and thought they could sell their products.
Hugely helped by the growth of the internet and on-line shopping which meant that no matter how small you were you could send your products nationwide.
Increasing, if patchy, interest from the supermarkets – establishment of small ‘freefrom’ categories in most multiples.
- 2005–2015: explosion in ‘freefrom’. Industry growth registering 15% year on year; small companies (such as Doves Farm) getting bigger; larger companies (such as Warburtons) entering the market; big money (such as Genius) investing in the market.
Huge growth in number of categories, quality, improved nutritional profile, availability.
An extremely vibrant industry with new players entering on a daily basis.
(Nearly half of the entrants to the FreeFrom Food Awards for the last two years have been companies new to the sector.)
Predicted to reach a half billion turnover by 2017.
And to come…
There seems to be no sign of growth slowing.
As more products come on stream in a wider range of outlets, they become available to a wider range of consumers who thereby drive demand and further growth…
Four significant areas for growth:
- ‘Healthy’ freefrom. Although ‘freefrom’ is perceived to be healthier, it often is not – but it has the potential to be. And it will need to fulfil healthy expectations so expect to see more superfoods, more low sugar products, possibly the introduction of some functional ingredients and/or fortification.
- Food service. Recent European legislation has finally forced awareness of allergies onto the food service sector. After an initial period of panic, food service has now realised that there is a significant market to be catered for who, up till now, have rarely eaten out because there was nothing for them to eat.
- Naturally freefrom. Despite the apparent ubiquity of gluten, there are many thousands not only of ingredients but of manufactured foods which are already free of gluten and dairy – or which could be made free of them with a very minor tweaking of the recipes.
As the larger companies become aware of freefrom, if they were to review their portfolios they would find many lines which would fall into this bracket and could therefore be rebranded and remarketed as freefrom with minimal effort but thus addressing whole new market.
- Developing world. As Western diets spread to the developing world, so do food related conditions such as food allergy and intolerance, diabetes etc etc As yet, the freefrom industry scarcely exists outside its original constituency of Europe, Australasia and North America – there is massive potential in India, China and South America….