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Why the free-from market is booming

Free-from foods are categorised as a food free from an ingredient, often one or more of the 14 declarable allergens (and/or gluten), with popular options being gluten-free and dairy-free. It is estimated that the free-from food market size was valued at $90.1 billion in 2018, and is projected to reach $161.2 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 7.7% from 2019 to 2026.

There are many reasons consumers might opt for free-from options, whether it be for personal reasons, nutritional needs or a food intolerance or allergy. Consumer demand has led to increased awareness of dietary requirements in the food industry and the out-of-home food sector, which is due to a variety of reasons.

Food allergies and intolerances have become more widely recognised in the medical profession in recent years, which is one of the reasons demand for free-from products has sky-rocketed. With the medical profession more aware of the signs and symptoms, more people are being diagnosed. This, in turn has increased the need for food providers to offer options to cater to a variety of dietary requirements.

A gluten-free diet excludes ingredients with the protein gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, and rye. It is currently the only recommended treatment for those with coeliac disease, which can include symptoms such as chronic diarrhoea and vomiting. Therefore, consumers with coeliac disease have no choice but to shop in the free-from isles at the supermarkets, for items such as bread and pasta. Many foods naturally don’t include gluten that contribute to a healthy diet, such as fruit and veg, eggs, and lean non-processed meats.

It’s not just an allergy or food intolerance that leads consumers to opt for a free-from alternative. Dairy-free products are consumed by many people without a dairy intolerance due to the practices in the dairy industry. There are negative associations around the environmental impact of dairy production due to the emissions of greenhouse gases and concerns of animal welfare. This has led to a rise in a variety of plant-based alternatives including dairy-free cheeses and milks such as oat milk, soy milk, and nut milks.

Previously there were perceptions of people requesting and eating free-from foods as being ‘fussy’ eaters, which stems from a lack of a wider discussion and understanding around these conditions. The food industry, especially the out-of-home industry, needs to lead the way in accepting and offering options for all dietary needs and requirements, ensuring a safe establishment for people to eat out or order from.

At e-f group we can help the catering and hospitality industries with our leading-edge solutions. Our CaterCloud menu management system pulls allergen and nutritional information from your ingredients lists so when you assemble a menu on the system using the recipes you create, it will show exactly what allergens are in the meal, which helps your staff and customers to remain safe when ordering.

CaterCloud is the leading integrated solution for allergen, nutrition, menu planning and cost management and it’s FREE TO USE – sign up here or contact support@catercloud.com for more information.

Published on May 10th, 2022

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