The survey, conducted in November 2014, spanned 476 medically diagnosed celiacs as well as 211 people who buy free-from products as a lifestyle choice (lifestylers).
Nearly all of the 476 celiacs said products were too expensive, and 84% complained of limited product choice. Meanwhile, 83% of 211 lifestylers also felt products were too expensive and 74% highlighted lack of choice.
Celiacs noted choice was most limited in drinks, desserts, cereal and prepared meals – more than three-quarters indicated there was not enough choice in prepared meals.
Vicki Shepherd, a researcher at Cambridge Market Research, said in particular celiacs and lifestylers said they wanted a broader range of fresh baked items. There was particular desire for items like ciabatta, French baguettes, hot cross buns and croissants, she said.
Paul Beresford, MD at Cambridge Market Research, told BakeryandSnacks.com this research was important for manufacturers working in such a booming category where UK sales alone totted up to £184m ($286m) in 2014.
“The free-from phenomena is growing in terms of shelf space but there is a lack of research into it as this is a hard-to-reach niche of consumers. Our survey suggests that there is a need for greater transparency across the category including improving the product offer and facilitating the eating out process both for consumers and food outlets.”
The CEO of Coeliac UK Sarah Sleet previously told this site manufacturers had to step up and develop a broader range of more convenient, well-priced free-from products for consumers.
Perceptions and understanding
The survey showed perceptions of free-from foods were not always positive, with more than half (57%) saying they considered them processed.
The research firm found confusion around the ‘free-from’ concept, findings it meant “different things to different people”, including gluten- and lacto-free. It suggested clearer labelling and a definition of the free-from category could help demystify the sector for consumers.
Cambridge Market Research supplemented its survey with qualitative interviews to better understand the confusion in the category.