Free From is continuing its stratospheric rise as one of the grocery sector’s most successful categories. One of the reasons for this rise is that, unlike so many other specialist categories, free from food is enjoyed by both allergy sufferers and “lifestylers” alike: not only is it an essential resource for those with intolerances, it is also becoming recognised more and more as a healthy, enjoyable diet choice in its own right.
The value of the market rose from £221m in 2010 to £470m in 2015, and is estimated to be worth £673m by 2020’
This unprecedented level of interest in free from means that brands need to be more aware than ever of their marketing and positioning. For example, it is regularly acknowledged that one of the central demographics for the category, perhaps contrary to expectation, is the millennial generation: millennials aspire to clean, healthier lifestyles, confounding the popular imagination’s usual association of youngsters with pot noodles and fatty foods.
However, brands need to make sure that, while tapping into this new demographic, they don’t alienate the allergy sufferers for whom the category is, after all, designed: the rising competition between brands for the attention of ‘lifestyler’ runs the risk of creating consumer dissonance through excessive commoditisation. Brands need to ensure that they toe the line between respect for the allergy side of things and promotion of the product to a wider audience.
A key trend for brands to focus on at the present moment is free from for children with allergies: free from ready meals and children-friendly snack bars are very likely to flourish in the near future as brands seek to capitalise on this currently under-represented demographic.