Brands that fall into the free-from, niche or specialist food categories can find it difficult to connect with the mainstream consumer. Supermarkets often conceal these products away in a specialist area of the store, so unless you’re searching for a specific product you're less likely to stumble upon those brands. This situation is beginning to change, with Mintel forecasting an increase in UK free-from sales from £470m in 2015 to £673m by 2020. Today, so-called ‘niche’ categories are shopped by 78% of consumers, according to Kantar Worldpanel. The growth shows no signs of stopping, which proves that free-from food isn’t a fad, it is a significant mainstream trend that is here to stay, and retailers are starting to get firmly behind it.
One of the key motivators behind this change is the health factor. Consumers are increasingly more conscious of health and wellness, showing greater concern over food safety issues regarding the traceability of the food they’re buying in supermarkets. Another reason for growth is due to the internet and social media. With the sharing of information being more immediately accessible, more people are sharing their journeys on their social channels and reaching new audiences. Millennials and generation Z seem to be buying more dairy-free and vegan products for their perceived health benefits. This has helped deliver 38.5% growth in the free-from category, according to Kantar.
As a result of these trends, retailers are now beginning to increase the amount of space devoted to free-from products. What was once a hard-to-find aisle in the store is now a hub of investment and innovation. Many brands have started to develop alternative advertising and marketing campaigns in a bid to get people excited and make some noise. This was the beginning of the free-from category taking a stand, but now they’re constantly popping up in new places to meed the consumer demand. Other brands have also started to ramp up their product development to join the niche market and meet the demand.
The entire food industry is being transformed by the integration of food, well-being and technology as we’re seeing a new wave of culinary consciousness. New innovative technologies are offering consumers personalised nutrition advice based on their body’s biology to make day-to-day eating easier for those with special dietary requirements.
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