Why Free From options should be far from dull
Would the ideal consumer eat anything and everything?
You might think so but following this logic, the undemanding omnivore will also eat anywhere, with location and price becoming the only two deciding factors.
What makes consumers choose our products and meals above the rest of the crowd, and more importantly come back time and again?
Society often implies people with “selective dietary preferences” – whether for health, allergy or lifestyle reasons – are difficult and fussy.
But making sure your menu caters for the careful consumer, giving a touch of luxury while embracing healthy eating, can make you the attractive option.
As far as food trends go, gluten free is the second most important food trend currently affecting menus.
Indeed, the entire Free From market more than doubled in size in the previous five years to £718million.
That growth is projected to continue, rising by another 25% to a spectacular £899million by 2022.
It’s clear this is no niche market and has hit the mainstream.
Half of UK adults say they avoid certain food ingredients, and 41% of people who follow a gluten-free diet do so for reasons other than intolerance or sensitivity.
What’s more, while more than 3.5million people in the UK now identify as vegan, more than half of UK adults “adopt vegan-buying behaviour”.
So how is this affecting menus?
Well, in 2018 the number of dishes flagged as vegan on menus has more than quadrupled.
It’s all part of the mega trend of “healthy eating” which has seen a similar growth in the number of vegan products launched in the UK in the last five years.
The backlash against the rise in refined wheat products which dominate most modern diets means it is not only coeliacs who are sensitive to the amount of gluten in their diets.
This powerful audience is leading the demand away from the rather one-dimensional image that gluten-free products previously enjoyed.
Equally, today’s customers may not be committed vegans but are instead aiming for “responsible consumption”.
Eating less beef and the rising interest in vegetarian diets mean many are choosing plant-based meals for health or environmental reasons.
What they are looking for on a menu is choice.
Thanks to advances in food technology, there is a new wave of products that are gluten-free, vegan-friendly but also dairy or lactose free as well.
Key food products in 2018 include jackfruit, a popular “fake meat” product, as well as seaweed, roasted vegetables and tofu.
Operators need to address the growing demand for meat-free dishes, even from non-vegetarians.
Pulses such as red lentils are increasing products’ protein content, with a Czech organic bakery producing biscuits with red lentil flour and chocolate.
An Italian manufacturer is using ancient grains and seeds such as teff, chia and buckwheat in their pasta, bread, sauces and snacks.
Macphie itself produces a range of sauces and desserts from panna cotta to dairy custard that are both gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly.
In a similar vein, the range of savoury sauces with cheese, béchamel and red wine make similar claims which can add a touch of luxury to a menu that keeps customers taste buds and consciences healthy and happy.
So it could well be time to look to refreshing your menu to tap into the trend and keep your menu Free From boredom.
Source: MCA, Mintel, The Food People, Coeliac UK