‘Free-from’ foods moving into the mainstream

by Keith Nunes
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DUIVEN, The Netherlands – Major food and beverage manufacturers are capitalizing on consumer demand for products featuring a free-from claim, according to Innova Market Insights.

“While claims using the term ‘natural’ have increasingly come under fire for lack of clarity regarding definition, the use of additive-free and preservative-free claims has been able to move forward relatively unhindered,” said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation for Innova Market Insights. “Interest in naturalness is still highly evident, however, and is also reflected in the growing use of G.M.-free labeling, although it remains relatively limited on a global scale.”

Nearly 13 percent of global food and beverage introductions in 2013 used an additive- or preservative-free claim, up from 10 percent in 2008, according to the market research firm.

Gluten-free product introductions also appear to be moving out of the niche retail segment and into the mainstream market. Nearly 8 percent of product launches recorded in 2013 used a gluten-free positioning, rising to 14 percent in the United States and 10 percent in Western Europe. The growth, according to Innova, is partly due to improved labeling regulations, but also to rising awareness of gluten intolerance in the diet and the development of more mainstream and better-tasting gluten-free products across a range of food and beverage segments.

The use of lactose-free claims has been less popular than gluten-free, but even so 1.5 percent of new product launches adopted the positioning in 2013, double the share five years earlier. The dairy market, not surprisingly, has seen the highest levels of activity, accounting for over one-third of total lactose-free launches, with 7 percent of dairy launches using the claim. Levels of interest and product activity have been particularly high in North America and Western Europe, where 10 percent of dairy launches used the positioning.

“It is clear that the free-from sector is set for further growth, with interest continuing to spread from those diagnosed as specific allergies and intolerances, via the self-diagnosed to those with a more general interest in health and wellbeing,” Williams said. “The ongoing development of a greater range of products with a high-quality image and a good-taste profile is helping this along.”
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