A brief history lesson (Revision – for those of you who have forgotten!) The 1990s
1980/1990s Increase in number of children suffering from allergies reaching school age Concurrent founding of vocal support groups - Anaphylaxis Campaign, Allergy UK etc Increased awareness of prevalence of coeliac disease
Recognition, especially in popular press that many people suffering from low level of ill-defined ill health which their doctor could not treat and which might be connected with what they ate. Celeb adoption of ‘allergy’ - Victoria Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow et alia Official (DOH/FSA) focus on some foods as precursor to ill health focused attention on all food as possible cause of ill health.
Growing epidemic of obesity - could it be related to ‘allergic’ foods? Growth in organic, fair trade, focused attention on quality of food, feeding into a growing awareness of food’s possible impact on health.
FreeFrom in the 1990s Not called FreeFrom – ‘special diet food’… Not really in supermarkets Dairy-free market served by vegetarian/ soya manufacturers – Alpro, Haldane etc Gluten-free market served by coeliac manufacturers – Juvela, Glutafin, Barkat – mainly prescription products.
FreeFrom 2000–2005 Two major changes: Burgeoning interest of supermarkets Patricia Wheway at Tesco Sainsbury own label range Variable interest depending on buyer Arrival of internet marketing Enabled enthusiastic individuals to set up in business with virtually no start up costs and sell direct to the public without the need for distribution
Food industry 2000–2005 Growth of craft food industries, unwittingly tapped into growing allergy market – Village Bakery – Goat’s milk and sheep milk farmers Allergy awareness growing within the industry
2005–2012 FreeFrom gathering pace First FreeFrom seminar– 2006 Adapting existing products – Lactofree Dedicated manufacturing sites
Technical developments – – Genius – Pastas – Swedish Glace & Booja Booja Improved packaging, nutritional profile and marketing/advertising spend 2008 – the first FreeFrom Food Awards!
2012 onwards Underlying problems have not changed – they have just got worse!
Ever increasing incidence of allergy/ intolerance (diagnosed and self-diagnosed) – could be 10% of the population. Ever rising incidence of coeliac disease and gluten intolerance – could soon be well over 1 in % of the population. Ever growing obesity epidemic – 60% UK population now overweight... These people need to buy freefrom
Encouraged by health writers complementary practitioners and sustainability campaigners more and more people are questioning – Where their food came from – How it was manufactured – Whether it has an impact on their health – Whether it is making them/their family fat Many of these people – up to 40% according to some estimates – are choosing to buy freefrom food because they think is better for their health and/or the environment. And this number is going up!
So, where next?
The freefrom dichotomy The organic parallel – by definition organic farming should be small and local – yet to reach all the people it wants to reach, it needs to go with the supermarkets and be multinational! Freefrom, by definition, needs to be massively allergen/contamination conscious – yet the consumers who are really growing the sector do not even have an intolerance, let alone an allergy!
The FreeFrom protocol Whatever about that growing market of freefrom restricters, to retain its identity Freefrom has to remain truly freefrom Remaining truly freefrom is becoming ever more difficult
Thresholds A threshold is the level at which an allergen will trigger a reaction in an allergy sufferer. With the exception of gluten, no one knows what those are – nor does anyone expect to know anytime soon.
Ingredients of ingredients It is no longer good enough to declare ‘dairy-free margarine’ / ‘gluten-free flour’ The ultra sensitive can react to vanishingly small amounts of their trigger food –Fish or peanut vapour –Substrate on which a probiotic cultured Good freefrom manufacturers need to know, and declare, all the ingredients of the ingredients they use even though they may not be required to do so under the regulations.
Novel ingredients There is much ongoing work in developing new freefrom ingredients, especially gluten-free, ingredients but…. Dangers of allergen cross reaction – lupin/peanut Dangers inherent in new/developing sensitivities – gluten intolerance may involve all grains rather than just wheat, barley and rye
Are we too narrow in our concept of freefrom? Traditionally ‘freefrom’ has focused on gluten, wheat and dairy with a fairly cursory nod to eggs and nuts. Should we be broadening the palate?
Sugar free? With the alarming growth in diabetes should we be including sugar-free in ‘freefrom’ – but if so, where would we draw the line with alternatives? Agave? Xylitol? Maltitol/lactitol? Honey? Stevia? Aspartame?
Meat free Trendy but confusing…as too many vegetarian dishes depend on either nuts or wheat/gluten cereals
But what about…. Soya free? Corn free? Nightshade free? Sesame free? or even just…. Truly additive free?
Food service continues to offer huge opportunities for freefrom Restaurants, cafés, bars, pubs, hotels Canteens, factories Hospitals, schools, care homes Anywhere you buy food to eat on the hoof The potential foodservice market for gluten-free food is estimated at around £100 million – and that is just coeliacs who make up less than 20% of the total number of potential ‘freefrom’ customers
Problems inherent in catering for allergics which make it ideal for freefrom manufacturers – High turnover of staff – Poor grasp of the language – Minimal training – Frequently changing menus – High risk of contamination – Menus/ingredients lists
Ideally food service outlets will learn to cater safely for freefrom customers (another whole subject…) but there is also a… Huge opportunity for quality ready- made freefrom products: – Complete meals – Individual dishes – Mixes, batters, bhaji mix, biscuit bases – Desserts, ice creams
Advantages of ready made freefrom products in food service For the customer: – Safety - the product is secure from kitchen contamination and staff error – They can read the ingredients so know exactly what they are eating For the outlet: – Safety - they do not need to worry about kitchen contamination – Staff training and allergy awareness becomes far less of an issue.
And….. If the ‘freefrom’ version tastes as good as the ‘standard’ product it can be served to everyone. If restaurant can offer good ‘freefrom’ food, freefrom customers will bring their whole party in their wake
Which brings me neatly onto my soapbox… To truly fulfill its potential freefrom must be aiming to become totally mainstream…. Available not only in every restaurant, café or pub but in corner shops, farmers markets, delis, motorway service stations – as well as in supermarkets, health food stores and on line…
And to get there it needs… More products…. – more ready meals – snack products – treat products – more products replicating mainstream categories More NPD – to achieve freefrom products that taste better, are healthier and cover a wider range To remove allergens from existing products
FreeFrom products, both in retail and in food service, need not only to replicate non-freefrom products but to taste as good or better so that whole families can eat freefrom even if only one member actually needs or chooses to do so!
OK - and now for the plug… To help you all achieve that we run the…
The industry’s very own awards!! Heavily supported from the start by the industry. Now in their 6th year - ever bigger and better! Existence of the awards encourages excellence & innovation Recognition of the awards and the awards logo increases awareness and profile of freefrom food awards opened on Monday – so, if you haven’t already, get your entry forms by contacting NOW!!