Post Categories: March 2016

Trending Tastes: Beyond Gluten-Free—Changing the Marketplace of “Free-From” Foods


A few years ago, gluten-free foods were often difficult to find. But with the increasing recognition of celiac disease and the popularity of “paleo” and other low-carb diets, gluten-free has become a major, mainstream category—valued at over $8 billion, according to market research firm Mintel. This has led to a major shift in the marketplace, opening the door for a wide variety of other “free-from” foods that eliminate certain ingredients commonly found in packaged foods.

The ingredients shoppers are most interested in avoiding include trans fats, GMOs (genetically modified organisms), artificial colors and flavors, and common allergens such as peanuts, eggs and soy. The allergy-free market has seen a particularly significant surge in the last five years. Mintel reports new product launches featuring a free-from allergy-related claim rose from 11 percent in 2011 to 28 percent in 2014—the highest of any free-from claim.

But it’s not just people with allergies or other intolerances who are seeking out these free-from foods. According to Mintel, 84 percent of consumers buy free-from foods because they believe the products are both healthier and less processed. Many also believe these products are better for the environment. Overall, Millennials and Generation X shoppers are the biggest demographic groups fueling the free-from trade, and are particularly driven to the category based on concerns they have about what’s in their food.

The snack food category appears holds particular promise for new free-from formulations. According to market research company Nielsen, 91 percent of Americans snack daily. And while nearly half of those consumers agree that snack foods contain some of the most controversial ingredients, only about one-quarter of new snack products launched in 2014 included a free-from claim, says Mintel. Providing options more free-from snack options, then, could help shoppers change their perceptions of snacking from a guilty pleasure to a healthy habit.