Scratching the surface - more opportunities for Free-From

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May 10, 2017

by Vicki Hamilton


We’re bang in the middle of Coeliac Awareness Week in the UK, and as a burgeoning category, Free-From is a constant source of interest to the team here at MMR.

We asked the team to share their tales of intolerance, avoidance, misery and triumph – and a few themes began to emerge…


I’m choosing to limit my intake of dairy. I don’t think I have an intolerance, but I’ve noticed a reduction in bloating since reducing my intake and making the switch to lactose-free products

Adam

Director


Adam does a lot of weight training and was finding that the milk that he was using with his protein products seemed to be slowing him down. ‘There are no real challenges,’ he says, ‘although it’s quite a bit more costly and an annoyance that we’re now buying whole milk for my son, semi-skimmed for my wife and daughter, and Lacto-Free for myself!

Products(Image: arlafoods.co.uk)

This echoes the sentiment shared in an earlier blog (see Free From for Kids).  Most Free-From products - whether gluten, dairy or otherwise-free are positioned and packaged very much for the individual – but we feel there is a HUGE opportunity to explore family sized packs and convert the whole family for shopper convenience.


​I'm intolerant to lactose and wheat. Part of me loves the current gluten free trend and part of me hates it

Nic

Senior Programmer


Shannon and Nic are genuinely intolerant to lactose, which means they both have some serious coping strategies. Shannon takes digestive supplements and peppermint oil capsules, avoids chain restaurants and drinks soy and nut milks. They are both dedicated label-checkers

Nic says; ‘What I hate is that it feels like it's ok to be gluten free, but not anything-else-free. Ordinary bourbon biscuits contain wheat, but don't contain milk. Gluten-free bourbon biscuits contain milk. I can have a pizza in a restaurant if their gluten free base is milk free and I don't have cheese on it. But in the supermarket all the gluten free frozen pizzas have cheese on. So many exciting foods in the Free-From aisle are marked as wheat and gluten free, and when I check the ingredients they contain milk. Dangling the hope of me being able to eat it is worse than not having it exist in the first place.’


Dangling the hope of me being able to eat it is worse than not having it exist in the first place


Coeliac Natalia also has to avoid gluten. She feels that Free-From in the UK is really lagging behind Canada in terms of choice, but her main bugbear is clean label – or the lack thereof. ‘I don’t understand why the argument for clean label doesn’t seem to apply to gluten-free,’ she says, ‘for people with tricky digestive health, it’s more important than ever!’

She’s equally unimpressed by the opposite end of the scale where the health credentials go too far – raw, paleo, ancient, ‘blessed by the Gods’. ‘There’s no in between. Where are the basic staple products, made from simple ingredients in a minimally processed way?’

The outcome? She no longer buys packaged food here in the UK, and she’s disappointed for retailers and brands because they’re missing out on a market. Instead, she stocks up when she goes back to Vancouver and preps a lot of meals from scratch. She feels there’s a missed opportunity in free-from meal kit and prep solutions – much like Hello Fresh or Old El Paso – which would offer creative choices for time and energy-strapped coeliacs.

There is some good news though - the upshift in free-from has brought about a revolution in baked goods. ‘When I first became wheat intolerant ten years ago,’ Nic says, ‘you had to buy gluten-free bread from a health food store and the best thing you could say about it was that it wasn't disgusting. I could only eat it for a few days in a row before I couldn't deal with the dry, tastelessness of it any more. But bread has improved no end. I now have a choice of nice breads in the supermarket and regularly buy one type for my sandwiches and one type for toast. I love that the gluten-free trend has given me nice bread at least!’