Today’s consumers are a finnicky bunch and trying to appease their demands can be a manufacturer’s most difficult balancing act. Some studies point to the desire consumers have for sweet treats that bring back happy childhood memories, while others underscore an overwhelming majority who want to limit sugary intake. Then there’s the success of terms like ‘all-natural’, ‘non-GMO’ and ‘artisan-style’, and even more surveys that confirms that customers would be happy to pay extra for an added indulgence.
With all these food factions forming, what’s a manufacturer to do?
“One short-term fad turned long-term trend is free from,” Eric Quirin, EMEA sales director for Chaucer Foods told BakeryandSnacks.
“It’s a path more and more companies are taking to meet the growing demand for healthy, safe and environmentally friendly food options.
“With the right ingredients, it’s also a way to incorporate delicious, sweet or savoury selections that can make people forget about what they might be missing out on and remember only a taste they’ll come back for time and time again.”
What does this mean?
“Imagine being someone who constantly has to scan labels to ensure the food you’re shopping for is free of one ingredient or another. Or being a parent with a child who could die from one overlooked ingredient.
“Free from products successfully dwindle down the stress of not knowing if this food or drink will cause an allergic reaction,” said Quirin, adding the World Allergy Organisation estimates that 2.5% of the global population suffers with a food allergy, but the spread of prevalence data is much wider, ranging up to almost 10%.
“Research shows the increasing global issue of food allergies, while noting that certain allergens affect various regions differently, meaning consumers in the UK might be more susceptible to a specific food allergen when compared to consumers in Japan or the United States.”
Quirin said the increasing range of allergens has caused a spike in overall interest in free from goods that cover all of the bases.
“To make a product successful at a global scale, formulators should innovate an allergen-free product.”
According to Mintel, 43% consumer perceive foods with any free from claim to be both healthier and less processed, thereby meeting two of the industry’s most popular current trends. Consumers have increasingly relied on the labelling as a way to acquaint themselves with better-for-you selections. Similarly, 59% believe the fewer ingredients a product it has, the healthier it is, according to Storebrands.
“With nearly half of consumers stating that they want to eat healthier in 2022, we expect this free-from trend to grow exponentially as consumers continue to view free from as being better-for-you. It’s the healthy alternative.”
Formulating to fit the free from trend doesn’t have to be difficult or cost-restrictive, said Quirin.
“The team at Chaucer Foods is equipped with all the tools and insight to help producers formulate an innovate food or drink that can stand the test of time in the free-from future. Whether it is added sugar-free, gluten-free or dairy-free, Chaucer Foods’ freeze-dried and baked ingredients provide the perfect inclusion to any free-from formulation.”
He noted that freeze-drying ingredients reduces the moisture content and extends the shelf life, while still being free from artificial preservatives.
“Additionally, our ingredients retain nearly all of their natural nutrients, vibrant colour and delicious flavour, eliminating the need for the artificially sourced additives that are quickly becoming the consumer’s number one enemy.”
So, from health-conscious consumers to individuals with allergies, free from formulations are proving to be the future of the food and beverage industry.
“With a product offering that omits major food allergens, consumers can indulge in something they feel good about. Regardless of the reason for consumption, producers who offer free-from products create an inclusive treat to be enjoyed by a large consumer base,” said Quirin.