The future of free-from

19 October 2018

In the US alone, 3.1 million people follow a gluten-free diet. 72% of these are classified as PWAGs — people without coeliac disease avoiding gluten. Whether avoiding a certain food type is due to an allergy, or a preference, retailers around the world are embracing the growing free-from culture. Here, Charlie Ahern, general manager at global packaging supplier Advanta, explains further. 

Across the pond, Britain’s shopping baskets are also containing more free-from products. In fact, Brits are dodging dairy, gluten and grains at a growing rate, having spent an extra £230m on free-from food and drink in the past year. The dietary landscape is morphing quickly, due to intolerances and allergies, doctors’ orders, personal preferences.

Free-from aisles tend to focus on gluten free, wheat free and dairy free, yet if you wander further afield in the supermarket, you will spot many more examples of products appealing to different nuances. So, which of these growing dietary trends should food manufacturers keep an eye on? 

Non-GMO

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) refer to any living thing that’s had its DNA altered using genetic engineering. Currently, the U.S. accounts for about two-thirds of all the GM crops planted on Earth. While there's no real evidence to suggest GMO food is harmful, Former President Obama signed Bill 764 in 2016 creating a new federal standard in the USA with regards to GMO labelling. This means all packaging sold in the U.S. will need to have proper labelling to highlight GMO contents clearly.

Organic produce

Organic 3.0 is the name given to the most recent organic movement. The document sets the new standards for the organic food industry on the run up to 2028 and is all about making organic produce mainstream. Demand for organic food is at its highest for more than a decade, according to industry leaders. Andrew Monk, CEO of Australian Organic — which owns Australia's largest organic certifying group, says demand is still outstripping supply in many sectors.

Palm oil free

Avoiding palm oil is less about what consumers are putting in their body, and more about the environment and deforestation. Iceland is to become the first major UK supermarket to remove palm oil from all its own-brand foods, but what does this mean for the future? Perhaps more retailers will follow suit. Maybe we'll see more product labels boasting a lack of palm oil to attract the conscious consumer.

Vegan

Australia is now the third-fastest growing vegan market in the world, after the United Arab Emirates and China. In fact, the vegan food market value down under is set to reach $215 million by 2020. Popularity is highest among young people, particularly millennials — the world's largest generation.

However, it's not just vegans that are buying vegan labelled food these days, it's also the people who aim to eat a mainly plant-based diet. The flexitarians, flexi-vegans and pescatarians also want an occasional piece of the vegan pie, in Australia and around the world.

Low sodium

We have long understood the havoc that sodium can wreak on our bodies. However, reduced salt products are still continuing to rise. This trend is less of a free-from, and more of a kind-of-free from, but it does address the growing concerns of consumers with regards to health. In fact, REWE, a German chain of 15,000 supermarkets has launched a program to reduce the amount of salt and sugar in its own brand products.

South Africa has been a trailblazer in the global battle to reduce salt intake, with new legislation that limits salt in processed food. A handful of countries have opted for this mandatory legislation, including Portugal, Belgium, Finland, Greece, Argentina and Paraguay. It means more food developers will need to create meals that are preserved effectively, but require less salt. 

Wherever you are in the world, consumers are more conscious about what they eat, and will no longer claim ignorance on what they are ingesting. From organic-only, to PWAGs and flexitarians, the trend is less about categorising people, but about providing the necessary product options for everyone. The future is not about labelling diets, and about labelling products with right information to cater for these diets.



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