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The term “free from” has several different meanings – to some people, free from encompasses features such as gluten free, lactose free, and other free from claims that, bundled together, suggest that a product is clean, ethically produced, and environmentally sensitive. In contrast, people with food allergies rely on free from claims to keep them safe from potentially severe reactions resulting from an offending food or ingredient.

Symptoms of food allergies range from mild reactions such as tingling around the mouth and lips to severe responses that can include difficulty and in the most serious reactions, death. Most food allergies can be attributed to a defined group of foods that includes both animal products – meat, fish, shellfish, milk, eggs – and plant based products, namely nuts, soy, and wheat. Labeling requirements in Europe changed in December 2014 to require the naming on food packaging and for some restaurant foods of 14 allergens: gluten, crustaceans, egg, fish, peanuts, soy, milk, tree nuts, celery, mustard, sesame, sulfites, lupin and mollusks.

Free from claims pertaining to allergies include the general allergen free statement and statements regarding freedom from specific allergens, for example, soy, dairy, nuts, or eggs. Allergen statements are not very common – dairy free, the most prevalent claim, appears on only 1.9% of new product launches tracked – but show strong growth. Allergen free leads with global growth of 32.9% CAGR, egg free is growing at 18.5% CAGR, and both soy free and dairy free also are growing.

Plantfusion Elite Activated Peptide Protein Dietary Supplement with Rich Chocolate Flavor (US, May 2020), Magicorn Eazy Pop Salted Microwave Popcorn (UK, Apr 2020), Valley Foods Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Drink (Mexico, Apr 2020), Flora Plant Buttery Vegetable Fat Spread (Australia, Mar 2020).

Wheat free and dairy free claims feature in different categories than do their related claims of gluten free and lactose free. For example, dairy is the top category for gluten free claims (even though dairy products typically do not contain gluten) and bakery is the top category for wheat free. Likewise, baby and toddlers products are twice as prevalent in dairy free as in lactose free.  

The presence of baby and toddlers products among top categories suggests that parents are looking for a variety of free from features when feeding their young children. Nearly one-third of egg free and one-fifth of allergen free products are baby and toddlers products, appealing to parents of very young children with diagnosed or suspected food allergies. Allergen free products that are labeled “school safe” offer a ready identifier to school districts that have eliminated major allergens from the meals and snacks they serve. 

As consumers eat larger amounts of free from ingredients, intolerances and allergic reactions may become more common.  

“Innovating for the Free From Marketplace” is a newly updated Trends Insider report from Innova Market Insights, which brings together consumer research, market sizes, company analysis and a review of new product trends and activity to demonstrate just how the picture has been changing and to suggest where the future opportunities can be found.