Free-From Breaks Into The Mainstream

Clean label has moved on beyond being a trend and is now regarded as standard in the food industry. Consumers are demanding shorter and more recognisable ingredients lists and manufacturers are responding by highlighting the ‘naturalness’ and origins of their products.

It’s clear from the ongoing development of the free-from movement that it is no longer confined to those with allergies and intolerances, whether medically or selfdiagnosed. Issues such as overall wellbeing, digestive health, weight management and nutritional value may now be deemed to be equally, if not more, important.

With growing concerns about the lack of a definition of “natural,” however, there is a need for more clarity and specificity, with consumers, retailers, industry and regulators all driving the demand for more transparency in food labelling.

More than 20 per cent of US products tracked in 2014 featured a clean label positioning, up from 17 per cent in 2013. Significant rises in the use of clean label ingredients have also been tracked, with growing interest in natural sweeteners such as stevia and monk fruit, and natural colours such as those based on spirulina, elderberry and beetroot.

Fewer ingredients, more natural flavours and colours and recognisable ingredients top the list of consumer requirements.

Innova findings suggest 73 per cent of US consumers think it is important to have recognisable ingredients in the foods they eat, as well as foods they would stock at home. Some 28 per cent of consumers also admit to finding a clean label important when purchasing foods. This could include statements such as ‘organic’, ‘non-GMO’ or ‘hormone-free’, as well as more established claims of no artificial ingredients.

This demand for clean labelling has now brought the need for clear labelling equally to the fore, resulting in a move to clearer and simpler claims and packaging for maximum transparency and necessitating an industry response in terms of reformulation and new communication strategies.”

In fact, from clean to clear label was identified by Innova Market Insights as the number one top 10 trends for 2015, recognising it is no longer a niche area for the food and drinks industry. Freefrom foods, also once regarded as a niche area, now have a more diverse and mainstream position.

Products positioned on a gluten-free platform accounted for 9 per cent of total launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in 2014, rising to 17 per cent in the US, while the annual average growth for lactose-free launches was 29 per cent throughout the 2010-2014 period.

Considerable effort has gone into developing the gluten-free and lactosefree categories in recent years. But at the same time, the entire free-from category is widening out to include broader definitions such as vegan, dairy-free, grain-free, additive- and preservative-free and GMO-free.

Indications of ongoing development include the arrival of existing mainstream brands in the market, as well as rising sales of specialist brands in mainstream outlets and the increased space and improved signage dedicated to them.


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