I was speaking with someone recently who told they’d moved to a gluten free diet earlier this year. This is barely news these days. Indeed I’d lunch with a friend only yesterday who explained he now avoids anything with Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) in it. I’ve lost count of the friends and colleagues who’ve given up caffeine, or alcohol, or gluten, or dairy, or meat in recent years. All for reasons of health and usually without the prompting of a doctor or even a professional medical diagnosis. I myself gave up tomato-based products a few years ago transforming my health in the process. Free-from diets are no longer unusual or rare.
Whilst this is a trend I don’t think it’s a fad. I can give no insights into why a surprisingly high number of middle-aged, middle-income people sometimes make radical changes to their diet; there are a multitude of often personal reasons almost always to do with perceived health benefits. This isn’t just my personal experience either. Earlier this year the Financial Times reported that one-in-five people in the UK now claim to suffer from a food intolerance. The same article reported that half of UK shoppers now include at least one allergen free product in their weekly shop. That’s already a lot of free-from products being sold.
I read recently about the ‘alternative protein’ trend. Leading US ag-industry marketers, Charleston Orwig, blogged about it. They claim alternative protein is expected to rise to almost 30% of market share in the America in coming years. That’s a staggering figure.
The ‘free-from’ and alternative products trends are already being mined very successfully by a large number of companies, both big and small. However, there are clearly still opportunities for the industry. Product innovation, NPD and listing will obviously play an important part in this but so will marketing. Room exists for new market leaders to emerge, it’s a prime area for challenger brands too. Consumers aren’t just interested they are actively seeking out new products, and that doesn’t happen in every sector as we all know.