“Lifestyle choice” driving boom in allergy-free

The booming allergy-free market is being driven by growing numbers of people buying for “lifestyle reasons”, a new survey shows

According to the survey by YouGov of 1,039 UK adults, 55% of consumers purchasing free-from foods don’t suffer from an intolerance or allergy and don’t live with anyone who does.

The main reason that non-allergy/intolerance sufferers gave for buying free-from foods was that they are generally healthier/better for you.

A previous survey of 3,000 consumers published in a report by Leatherhead Food Research found the main benefits of free-from foods were perceived as being to maintain a healthy balanced diet, to help cope with a condition and help digestive health, indicating that these foods are appealing to a much broader customer base. According to that report, a staggering 97% of people who buy into the gluten-free category are non-coeliacs.

“There is a rapid growth in those who choose to go free-from as a lifestyle choice as they see free-from food as being healthier and more environmentally friendly,” commented Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, director of the FreeFrom Food Awards.

The YouGov survey revealed that only 33% of allergy/intolerance sufferers said they were aware of and have purchased free-from foods (rising to 46% for those with gluten intolerance and 45% for dairy intolerance) but 39% were unaware that free-from foods even existed. 28% of sufferers were aware of free-from products but hadn’t purchased them.

59% of those surveyed believed that free-from products have really improved in the last couple of years and 67% are noticing that more free-from products are now available in grocery stores.

The survey also found that 22% of the UK population consider themselves to have a food allergy or intolerance (up 5% on 2011); 7% have a diagnosed or suspected food allergy; and 16% have a diagnosed or suspected food intolerance. In addition, it revealed that 31% of UK households include at least one allergy or intolerance sufferer.