Living Free (From)

An artisan loaf with a ‘100% Gluten free’ sticker on it.
Written by Kay Robinson,

We all know that there are certain foods we should eat in order to stay healthy. Global research published in April this year by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) found that making sure we get enough vegetables, fruit, nuts and legumes is the key to living a longer life, and that omitting these is more damaging to our health than any other risk. We’re used to thinking about which foods we should be eating, and have been well-schooled in doing this since childhood – ‘an apple a day’ springs to mind. But data from the UK food and drink market suggest that many consumers are now paying just as much attention to avoiding certain foods, and not exclusively for health reasons.

Dietary choices like veganism have seen enormous growth, with the number of vegans quadrupling in the UK over the last five years. With over half of UK adults in 2018 claiming to have tried vegetarian or meat-free foods, the market for meat or animal-free products in particular is expanding. YouGov found that 14% of Brits even describe themselves as ‘flexitarian’ i.e. primarily vegetarian but occasionally eating meat or fish – showing just how many more of us are looking for the opportunity to choose animal-free or plant-based options.

In line with this, the UK food and drink market has also seen a rise in the number of consumers choosing to omit more specific ingredients, such as gluten, lactose and wheat. On a personal note, the expansion of the free-from range in my local supermarket seems to have been non-stop over the last few years, with temptation by free-from products no longer limited to the free-from aisle but scattered throughout the store. This would appear to be the norm: the ‘free-from’ market grew by 133% between 2013-18, indicating further appetite from consumers to control just what they put into their bodies.

While intolerances, allergies and health conditions remain key drivers to purchase free-from products, the spectrum of UK consumer interest in this market is now much broader. Personal considerations of health, wellness and high-quality taste now sit alongside external considerations of sustainability, ethics and environmental impact. Together these lifestyle-based interests bring forward new and significant opportunities for product development in both ‘free-from’ and animal-free categories.

At Gusto we have recent experience working with an international FMCG client to reposition their free-from range from a preventative to a more positive movement. This insight demonstrated the complex interplay of consumer lifestyle and health priorities and the evolving challenge this presents in product communication.

We’d be delighted to help you dig down further to understand these complex consumer attitudes in order to best meet that challenge. Contact or call Kay on 0113 2689020.

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