Whence cometh Freefrom? Who needs it – and why do they need so much more of it than they used to?
1. Food allergy sufferers True food allergy – the sort that can kill you – was almost unheard of 40 years ago. Now one child in every 70 has a potentially fatal nut allergy – and rising…
2.Coeliacs and those with Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity First identified after WWII, until 10 years ago CD was thought to affect 1 in 300 people or fewer. Now, with improved diagnosis, thought to affect 1 in 100, and, if you include NCGS this could be as high as 1 in 70.
3. IBS sufferers IBS Network estimate that 50% of population suffer from IBS at some point in their lives. The most common symptom of IBS is food intolerance – primarily to wheat and dairy. The most common treatment? An elimination diet.
4. Other medical conditions Dietary restrictions increasingly being used to treat other diagnosable digestive conditions such as Crohn’s, UC, IBD etc A number of mental health conditions (now bigger, in terms of NHS spend, than CHD and cancer put together) are using dietary restrictions as part of their treatment – depression, hyperactivity, obsession, ASD etc
5. Self-diagnosed food intolerants Those suffering from low level health problems (digestive disorders, bloating, headache, fatigue etc) self-diagnose as being gluten or dairy intolerant. The improvement in their health may be due as much to better eating habits, when they go gluten/dairy free, as to a genuine intolerance, but it validates their ‘freefrom’ diet.
6. Lifestyle ‘freefrom’ers Those who believe that freefrom food is healthier, less processed, less polluted, more environmentally friendly, more ethically acceptable – and therefore choose to eat freefrom.
So, now for the history lesson…. How has freefrom grown to accommodate this growing band of people?
1980s – 2000 Gluten-free: dedicated coeliac manufacturers making fairly unappetising gluten-free staples, available almost entirely on prescription. Dairy-free: vegetarian manufacturers offering chalky, soya-based alternative dairy-free ‘milks’ and ‘cheeses’.
2000–2008 Number of allergy/intolerance sufferers starting small artisan businesses selling locally. Growth internet trading which allowed these mini-producers to sell to a wider market. Growing interest of supermarkets in freefrom sector although very patchy and dependent on the enthusiasm of individual buyers.
2008 The first FDIN FreeFrom seminar The launch of the first FreeFrom Food Awards!
2008–2013 1. Growing interest from main stream food industry: Finsbury/United Central Bakeries, Youngs, Warburtons, Heinz 2. Major step forward in quality of products: Genius breads, innumerable gluten-free pastas, fresh soya milks, Lactofree
2008–2013 3. Much more serious engagement of the supermarkets with own-label freefrom brands 4. Growth of online & home delivery shopping (independent of freefrom) made buying freefrom on line much more accessible and acceptable.
2008–2013 5. Although many prices remain too high, in some areas at least they are moving more in line with main stream products – driving an increased take up. 6. Better distribution has led to increased availability – also allowing for increased take up.
2013 We have reached the position where the improved quality and availability of freefrom food means that it is relatively easy for those who both need and choose to eat freefrom to do so. Especially important for those who do not need to eat freefrom and who are therefore much more likely to stick with freefrom if it is relatively easy for them to do so.
So, where is freefrom going? and…. What is holding it back?
Where is freefrom going? Well a lot closer to the mainstream – which is, of course, where I think it should – and will – end up… How come?
1. More large, mainstream food companies – such as Heinz – entering the freefrom market bringing: – Investment for dedicated facilities – Better distribution networks – Marketing muscle – Promotional money and muscle.
2. Rebranding Large and small food manufacturers rebranding what are already gluten/dairy- free products as freefrom – and – examining existing product ranges to see if they can be tweaked to make them freefrom – thereby…. hugely increasing the freefrom offer
3. More focus on additive-free, ‘clean’ ingredients, raw foods, superfoods, health foods – thereby both securing the loyalty of the existing ‘lifestyle’ freefrom-ers – and – tapping into the whole health and well-being market
4. Growing internationalism of freefrom. a. This year saw first European freefrom trade exhibition b. UK/Irish brands exporting world wide – Genius to N. America, the Gallagher’s PureBred to Australia etc c. Foreign freefrom companies setting up here – Amy’s Kitchen a few years and, now Boulder Brands d. Innumerable French, Spanish, Italian, German, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Hungarian companies’ products on UK shelves
5. Growing awareness of freefrom in food service – the mushrooming of freefrom pizza houses over the last year for example – raises awareness yet further. This is only going to increase with the new allergy declaration requirements in food service coming into force in December 2014.
6. Greater awareness of freefrom in the mainstream media rather than just in the health or trade media. Just this month a big ‘freefrom’ recipes supplement in Woman and Home and an Allergy and FreeFrom supplement in the Daily Mail.
7. Wider availability of freefrom foods, by definition, raises awareness of their existence and presents the average shopper with a greater freefrom choice – which, in turn, raises awareness of freefrom yet further…. So freefrom is getting bigger!!
So…. What may be holding freefrom back from getting bigger still?
What is holding it back? 1. Thresholds Now in place for gluten but desperately needed for dairy and, ideally, for egg, nut, soya…. 2. Labelling New regulations have done nothing to clarify the labelling issues – major allergens, ‘may contain’ etc
What is holding it back? 3. Poor distribution The desire to eat freefrom is there – but the product is all too often not. FreeFrom needs to be in Food to go outlets Coffee shops, sandwich shops Corner shops, petrol stations and… in the main aisles of supermarkets
What is holding it back? 4. Price A small price premium – up to 10 or even 15% – is seen as acceptable; 50–100–200% simply is not! And finally….
What is holding it back? 5. Nutritional profile To genuinely improve the health of those who need it – and – to keep the ‘lifestyle’ freefrom-ers on board…. Freefrom needs to deliver the health benefits that they are looking for. All too often it does not.
So who is going to help freefrom to overcome all of these obstacles and achieve all of these goals? Well, you, of course, but greatly helped by….. All of the wonderful speakers you are going to hear today – and…….
Entry opened yesterday…. www.freefromfoodawards.co.uk The UK’s only industry award for freefrom food! Now in its 7 th super- successful year!