Free-From Products Contain More Than You Might Expect….  

The recent Allergy Show in London Olympia was accompanied by a very interesting trade seminar that discussed recent developments in the world of free-from. Certainly the sector is in vibrant growth with more people choosing free-from products for lifestyle reasons rather than because they suffer from an intolerance or an allergy. As a result sales are up 26.9% year-on-year (Kantar Worldpanel).

 Despite this, not everything in the garden is entirely rosy. Much of the talk at the seminar was of the recent Genius product withdrawal, this most dedicated of free-from brands having been found to contain inadvertent gluten. Genius were widely considered to have handled the incident well, by being transparent and upfront throughout. Nevertheless there was a feeling of “there but the grace of God go I…” amongst other free-from manufacturers. If it could happen to Genius with their robust and dedicated supply chain then surely it could happen to anyone, with private-label manufacturers thought to be particularly vulnerable. An industry-wide manufacturing protocol is now being discussed, so something good may well come from the Genius incident.

 The second issue was raised by Hamish Renton during his seminar presentation. He called it the “Dirty Little Secret“ of free-from. Hamish pointed out that the vast majority of free-from products are nutritionally inferior to their regular counterparts. In general terms free-from products are higher in sugar, fat, salt and calories then the products they are designed to replace. Amy Clinkard of Planet Organic also pointed out that many free-from products contain a veritable chemistry set of artificial ingredients. There are good reasons for this – taking wheat, gluten and dairy out of foods is not straightforward and requires the full arsenal of the food technologist’s black arts.

 So looking into the future, for long term sustained success free-from products will need

  1. manufacturing procedures that exclude allergens under all circumstances
  2. nutritional profiles that are no worse than the products they replace
  3. all natural ingredients

 If this can be achieved, free-from can look forward to a secure future.