Foods bearing “free-from” claims are increasingly relevant to informed consumers, as they perceive the products to be closely tied to (good) health. Research from Mintel reveals that consumers buy free-from foods because they are seeking out more natural or less processed foods. In fact, 43% of consumers agree that free-from foods are healthier than foods without a free-from claim. Moreover, 3 in 5 people believe that the fewer ingredients a product has, the healthier it is.
Among the top claims free-from consumers deem most important are the classics: “trans fat-free” and “preservative-free”. Interest in GMO-free foods (37%) among all consumers outweighs interest in foods free of soy (22%), nuts/peanuts (20%) and eggs (17%). Another popular claim for consumers is sodium-free (57%).
It may seem like “fat free” is a claim that has had its best days, but there is strong consumer interest in such free-from foods, especially trans fat-free. This is definitely related to concern about obesity and its related health consequences. In general, health issues are top of mind when seeking products bearing a free-from claim, including those related to heart health and allergies.
Speaking of allergies: 1 in 5 consumers would like a full list of ingredients related to food allergens on product packaging because of the simple reason they worry about harmful ingredients. At the same time, allergies are still on the rise. For example, Covid is known to trigger MCAS and histamine over production in Long COVID. Many people experience new food allergies and sensitivities as a result, wheat and gluten being the most common manifestations.
Free-from purchases are motivated by personal and environmental health
While most people buy free-from foods for health and nutritional reasons, personal well-being is not the only driving factor. Consumers also believe that free-from foods are closely tied to the health of the planet. Mintel research shows that 70% of Americans sometimes, often or always consider a company’s ethics when purchasing products.
Furthermore, 56% have stopped buying a company’s products when they have perceived its actions as unethical. Not only Americans are interested in companies that look after the health of the consumer, as well as the environment. Traditionally, Europeans care even more about these hot issues. As a matter of fact, all consumers are doing their best to make informed choices when it comes to free-from food claims, and they will hold companies accountable.
The snack world is evolving rapidly towards free-from anything but taste
Although almost everyone loves snacking, consumers generally associate snack products with harmful ingredients such as GMO’s and artificial elements. Overall, Mintel data indicates that consumers perceive foods with any free-from claim to be both healthier and less processed. Additionally, consumers appear to be equating genetic modification, artificial and unhealthy as one and the same, and those consumers are likely to turn away from product labels with unfamiliar ingredients or ingredients perceived as chemically complex or unnatural.
Healthy snack demand is on an upward trajectory in Europe, fuelled by products attaching health halos to their products, according to latest figures by Euromonitor – but regulations may be the real driver. In October 2022, the UK introduced restrictions for products high in fat, sugar, and salt (known as the HFSS regulation) with more restrictions to follow over the next two years. The government’s plan will remove products classified as high in fat, sugar and salt from prominent in-store and online positions in retailers. Advertising will also be impacted with plans to introduce a 9pm watershed on TV and a ban of paid online advertisements in early 2024. Germany is also looking at a ban on the advertisements of products high in fat, sugar and salt during TV shows aimed at teenagers.
Now is the time to act
Free-from isn’t new, but it’s becoming the new standard. Consumers want it. Regulations are forcing it. As a food producer you have to make the switch now if you want to keep your position on the shelves. If you are looking for free-from ingredients to upgrade your products, the Naturis R&D department is happy to assist! Get in touch today.
Are you a food company looking for new ideas, solutions or tailor-made ingredients for innovative applications? Are you a distributor or wholesaler interested in our products and applications? Are you interested in private labeling? Contact us today at email@example.com or give us a call at +32 477 90 06 72.