The Future of Food Part 2: Adoption and Expansion of ‘Free-From’ Market

‘Free-from’ is a useful catch-all term to describe food and drink products which have been formulated to avoid causing adverse symptoms. This enables consumers who are intolerant or allergic to gluten, dairy, nuts or eggs to buy a wider choice of products.  

The global free-from food market is expected to record an estimated growth rate of 4.84% during the forecast period 2018-2023. And it’s the gluten-free market that is leading the way with predicted global expansion that is breathtaking. According to new research by Global Market Insights, Inc., the gluten-free market is predicted to have revenue of $12.5 billion by 2024. Growing consumer awareness regarding celiac and auto-immune problems, and gluten allergies, coupled with health issues which includes obesity and indigestion, all serve to continue to propel the global market demand for gluten-free products.

Gluten free

But it is interesting to observe that only 15 to 22% of consumers are intolerant or allergic to certain ingredients, whilst the rest consume free-from foods more due to their health credentials, rather than for any medical reason. Most American consumers, and also those worldwide, are aware of the intolerances caused by various food ingredients, such as gluten, dairy products and trans-fats. This growing awareness has created an important consumer perception that “free-from” foods are healthier and safer, which in turn is driving the free-from food market. More specifically, consumers who avoid gluten and diary as a dietary option are often doing so for reasons ranging from reducing inflammation or to simply losing weight. These ‘lifestylers’ are by far the largest segment of consumers that are driving growth across the free-from industry as a whole. Intelligent commentators note that the most successful free-from brands are those who produce products that have complementary health, sustainability and quality attributes.

Today restaurants are also more likely today to serve dishes identified as gluten-free. According to Joe Garber, marketing coordinator for Datassential, “the term ‘gluten-free’ is currently mentioned on 26% of U.S. restaurant menus, up 182% over the past four years and 10% in the past year alone.” Furthermore, in the restaurant world, gluten-free pizza has become increasingly prominent; it is currently featured on 9% of U.S. menus. And Trader Joe’s has a huge fan base for its mammothly successful gluten-free frozen Cauliflower Pizza Crust. 

Taste still remains supreme when it comes to gaining success in the free-from market. Not only are food manufacturers endeavoring to replicate flavors and textures, they’re also aiming to capture several dietary demographic groups with their products. Crackers and nutrient-dense snack bars are marketed for Paleo diets, raw food aficionados, vegans, and people who simply want to eat “clean,” – they’re “free-from” a variety of processed ingredients, not just one.

Beyond gluten-free, other “free-from” categories continue to experience growth, with meat-free foods up 11.8 per cent and free-from-lactose products rising 9.2 per cent. By 2023, the demand for free-from food is expected to dramatically increase in Africa and Asia-Pacific, as a large portion of gluten and lactose intolerance consumers can be found in those regions.

Free-from is a competitive marketplace, and those companies who can create innovative products, which meet allergen free requirements, as well as providing nutritional benefits to ‘lifestylers’ are sure to be leading the way, as this vast industry continues to expand.  If your business is in the free-from manufacturing space and looking to find a flexible, scalable ERP to help manage your production planning, inventory and ingredients traceability please get in touch to see how we could help you propel your growth.