Gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free… in the food industry these days, it seems like everything’s free from something.
There’s a new “less-is-more” trend in food marketing. In fact, packaged foods are becoming more likely to advertise what they don’t contain rather than what they do.
While the food and beverage industry has grown by less than two percent in the past decade, the market for foods that are “free-from” specific ingredients or allergens has grown by around 15% — and it’s poised to grow by that amount again in the next five years. By 2023, the “free-from” market is expected to exceed $28 million.
In order to stay relevant and enter this growing market, food and beverage companies must consider the benefits of developing, selling, and marketing “free-from” packaged products for their audiences. If you’re in food processing, food retail, or consumer packaged goods, this guide is for you. Read on to learn how you can keep up with the consumer demand for “free-from” products.
Why Are People Choosing “Free-From” Foods?
Before identifying strategies for your brand to capitalize on the “free-from” trend, it helps to understand where this demand is coming from. The cause of the increasing demand for “free-from” foods is two-fold:
- There is a real, measurable increase in food allergies and sensitivities in North America, and;
- Consumers are becoming more health-conscious and aware of the broader impacts of what they eat.
Let’s explore each of these causes a bit more.
Allergies & Sensitivities
Over the past 20 years, we’ve not only become more aware of serious food allergies in the U.S., but they’ve also become more common. Food allergies in children have risen by over 50% and allergies to peanuts or tree nuts have more than tripled. The result? Around 15 million Americans are now living with food allergies and around 6 million of them are children.
While the cause of this increase isn’t entirely clear, the result is quite clear: millions of consumers now require carefully developed, clearly labeled food products. For people with these allergies, “free-from” foods are more than just a fad — they’re a necessity.
Awareness & Health-Consciousness
For other consumers, the demand for “free-from” foods stems from an increased awareness of what’s going into their food and therefore into their bodies.
Increased nutritional literacy and consumer desire to take control of personal health are two driving forces behind this market. From GMOs to sugar, people want to know what’s in their food, how much of it, and how to avoid it if they don’t want to consume it. Producers who understand and respond to the consumer right to know about product ingredients are reaping the rewards.
How Can You Keep Up With the Demand for “Free-From” Foods?
With the “free-from” market taking off, food processors, retailers, and consumer brands are making a push to get on board. Here are a few specific ways your business can keep up with the “free-from” food trend.
Know the Market
As with any change or development you’re considering, you need to learn about your market. Demographic analyses, market surveys, and consumer buying patterns can all help you determine who your current market is and pinpoint who you’re not reaching.
Understanding that certain consumers are avoiding certain ingredients can help you gear your product development toward them. Parents with young children, for example, are most likely to be looking for nut-free and allergen-free products. Consumers who are environmentally- or health-conscious might be looking for GMO-free or dairy-free options. By offering the safe and healthy food products your target market wants and needs, you build trust with consumers.
Understand Your Ingredients
Get to know your ingredients inside and out. Which ones might cause reactions or contain allergens? If cross-contamination is an issue, are there ways for you to change your processing to keep various ingredients separate in order to prevent this risk?
One easy step you can take is to consider which of your existing ingredients or products are already “free-from” certain items by choice or chance. You can then make sure you’re marketing them as such. If you work with a trusted, certified supplier, they will be able to inform you about the ingredients you’re using — from what they contain to how they were produced according to industry health and safety standards.
Take a look at your existing recipes and products and ask yourself whether you can rework them to remove common allergens or hot-topic ingredients like GMOs.
Changing suppliers or working with existing suppliers to find appropriate alternatives can ensure consumers get the same products they love without any of the worrying ingredients. A great supplier will be able to support you as you create your next “free-from” food offering, so you won’t have to reinvent the wheel to offer “free-from” food products.
Try New Products
The burgeoning “free-from” market makes for the perfect time to trial new products. Ask yourself what gaps exist in your current product lines and what “free-from” products might fit well.
Developing whole new lines that are “free-from” certain ingredients can ensure you’re maximizing any equipment or processing investments you make. What’s more, when you introduce new products, they can attract a new market while also appealing to your existing markets.
Work with the Right Supplier for Healthful Ingredients
At Seawind Foods, we understand the increasing demand for “free-from” foods and as a high-quality ingredients supplier, we work to support our clients in crafting free-from food products to meet the demands of their customers. Let us help you create your next allergy-friendly and health-conscious food offering as your trusted ingredients supplier.
We offer dried fruits, vegetables, and spices that have been carefully sourced, grown, and processed to our stringent quality and safety standards. Our dried fruit is always SO2-free. This commonly used preservative doesn’t just affect flavor, but it can also trigger asthma and allergy attacks — which is why it has no place in our top-quality, natural ingredients. Seawind Foods’ producers are all FSMA compliant, and most are also GFSI certified.
Contact us today to learn more about our wide range of SO2-free ingredients and to order your free sample.