From scarcely two shelves on a supermarket shelf, the free-from market has become a hugely popular movement, with a 27% rise in sales in the last 12 months alone. Rising to prominence with a rise in free foods which has expanded to take into account a number of dietary requirements, including gluten, sugar and dairy-free, providing tasty options to people who may have otherwise been unable to indulge.
"Can I still enjoy the same snacks even if I have an allergy?"
The snacking industry has taken note, with many big-name brands looking into reworking snacks which are now free-from gluten, dairy and refined sugar. In 2019 alone, over 42% of us have chosen something from the free-from aisle in our weekly shop. Here's your quick insight in to the world of fast, fun and free-from - welcome to the next generation of snacks...
Food Intolerances - Influence on Snacking
Snacking, contrary to popular belief, can be a part of a healthy diet. The key is to make mindful choices and consume in moderation. The same goes for finding a snack which suits a particular dietary choice or in many instances, a food intolerance.
A food intolerance involves difficulty digesting certain foods and having an unpleasant physical reaction to them - the most common including gluten, wheat and lactose. It causes symptoms, such as bloating and stomach pain, which usually happen a few hours after eating the food. The number of people who believe they have a food intolerance has risen dramatically over recent years, but it's hard to know how many people are truly affected.
Just as vegan food has conquered a variety of popular meat-based foods, from burgers to sausages to mince, so too has the burgeoning free-from snack market produced varieties of almost every variety – from the dairy-free chocolate, to sugar-free treats and gluten-free gummy sweets. No matter what intolerance is bothering your customers, there is a delicious, healthy and pocket-friendly alternative to be found.
In 2019 alone, over 42% of us have chosen something from the free-from aisle in our weekly shop. The big boys have taken note of this increase for free-from foods by reformulating their recipes. However, they are having to work hard to compete with innovative, bespoke, nimble challenger brands who are producing their products ‘free-from’ from their very origin. To help develop this base, either for consumers who have specific dietary requirements, or those who are simply looking to cut back on certain products, dedicate a well signposted area of your retail space or section online for a ‘free-from’ range can deliver great results. But what choice is available and how tasty are the options out there?
Dairy Free Snacks
Better-for-you snacking is on the rise, but dairy free snacking isn't going away any time soon. Confectionery and indulgence have not been immune to the influence of the healthier living either. Greater consideration to wellness, with brands and consumers alike leaning towards a more permissive and inclusive way of indulging. But what choices are there?
Which brands are right for my customers then?
Take Plenish as a shining example riding on the wave of dairy free drinks. Fuelled by the idea that we're at our best when we're properly plenished, these dairy-free so called 'M*lks Shakes' are made using only a handful of natural ingredients with absolutely no additives, sweeteners or stabilisers. Every drink is made with 100% organic, sustainably-sourced so you're safe in the knowledge that you're getting everything you need and nothing you don't. All with the delicious, decadent taste of your favourite milkshake with less than half the sugar, 30% less calories and no dairy.
LoveRaw all about taking everything back to natural. These irresistible chocolate cups are filled with a variety of scrumptious fillings such as cashew cookie dough and hazelnut butter. Using simple ingredients, each pack is vegan, palm oil free, refined sugar free, made with organic Fairtrade chocolate, no gluten or dairy ingredients. This epitomises why LoveRaw are forming a new generation of indulgent treats which are disrupting conventional confectionery norms.
Inevitably when we talk about confectionery there comes the classic guilt factor. While consumers want something indulgent enough to tickle their taste buds, it’s that indulgent nature that often causes a certain pang of guilt. So it’s little surprise that 37% of consumers feel somewhat guilty about eating chocolate. However far from confectionery being stuffed with sugars and artificial flavours to replace the removal of dairy, the new choice of indulgent dairy free snacks are using premium, real ingredients, many are proving popular such as Doisy & Dam. Brightly branded, these recipes are naturally better for you. Not only do they provide shoppers with a hit of better foods, they are also conveniently packaged in portion controlled sizes helping shoppers feel a little less guilty.
Gluten Free Snacks
You may have heard the term 'gluten free diet' before. This can be a bit confusing to some people because it isn't a diet in the way that most people understand it - it's not designed to help people lose weight. It's just a way of eating that helps you heal your gut so you can start absorbing all the nutrients you need from your diet.
Once upon a time it was easy enough to toss some crackers into a lunch box or grab a bag of pretzels from the vending machine at the office. But having a genetic sensitivity to gluten - a protein found in many grain products including wheat, barley, and rye - can make healthy snacking challenging.
A surprisingly large number of snacks are actually gluten-free, and it would be wrong to label every gluten-free snack as "gluten-free", simply because there are a huge number of them. Some are created intentionally with this marketing in mind, others naturally free from gluten. The important thing is there's a wealth of choice to choose from today.
Reworking gluten based recipes
Candy Kittens have fast become an iconic British vegan gummy sweets. Absolutely no bad stuff in any of the range, these gourmet gummy candies are made without gelatin, completely gluten-free and made with natural flavours, colours and real fruit juices.
Fancy something familiar yet totally allergen free? The British Crisp Co are handcooked in the UK (rrp £0.79) using exclusively British potatoes, these tasty crisps combine no-nonsense flavours with classic crunch. Made on a farm that not only grows its own potatoes, but is powered by renewable energy. How good is that? So, these crisps don't just taste good - they do good, too. These crisps are free from the major allergens and suitable for a vegan diet, meaning more people can enjoy each and every crunchy bite. Did you know over 20% of the UK population is affected by one or more allergic disorder?
With 10g of natural protein per bar, the TREK Protein Energy Bars are the perfect snack to indulge in, all whilst being 100% natural with no added sugars or syrups. All ingredients are carefully considered to provide slow-releasing energy throughout the day, which is why TREK bars are filled with a combination of fruits, gluten-free oats and nuts, with no added extras.
While it may mean keeping an extra supply of special snacks in a desk drawer rather than raiding the office fridge, rest assured it is possible - and enjoyable - for someone with coeliac disease to maintain a tasty, healthier, and easily in reach gluten-free diet.
Sugar Free Snacks
As consumers increasingly look for quick ways to reduce their daily sugar intake, innovative snacking brands are taking the lead, producing healthier snacks which replace refined sugars with delicious, tasty alternatives – making them a great choice for a range of consumers including parents, those working from, teenagers studying and more. In a time-poor world, health is about more than just food; it’s about convenience, indulgence, mental health and me time. And when all those factors are thrown into the mix, we’re willing to compromise on being healthy for being healthier, as we take a more holistic view of our lifestyles. However reducing sugar is consistently a top concern among British snackers.
We’ve all seen the adverts, news reports and TV campaigns highlighting the hidden sugars that can be found in everything from soft drinks to pasta sauces. Too much sugar can be responsible for a range of issues, including weight gain and the risk of heart problems and diabetes. Snacking is one of the riskiest areas for consuming too much refined sugar, with some popular brand name chocolate bars containing as much sugar as a full-fat soft drink!
Not all sugar is created equal
When we talk about too much sugar being unhealthy it’s important to remember that most sugar falls into two categories – naturally occurring sugar, such as the lactose in milk or the fructose in fruit, and added or ‘free’ sugars, such as those found in fruit juice, honey and the white refined kind used in everything from cooking to cups of tea.
As a carbohydrate, some naturally occurring sugars can be positive for your body – particularly if you’re very active. However most of us will consume far more than our bodies need, meaning sugar-free snack options can play a vital role in reducing our intake.
Labels don't lie
Unlike ‘low-fat’ or ‘vegan-friendly’, reduced or sugar-free snacks can be difficult to spot – many advertisers would rather use packaging space to promote other key messages about their products. Therefore, a great way to check the sugar content of a product is to check out the label for the ‘carb as sugars’ content – as a general rule of thumb under 5g per 100g is low, anything over 22.5 should be avoided on all but the most special of occasions.
Why not make it easy for your customers by creating a snacking section dedicated to low sugar and sugar-free treats, easily highlighting great choices. When it comes to what to include there, Peppersmiths chewing gums and mints are made with 100% plant based xylitol, acting as a antithesis to sugar whilst still maintaining flavour.
Think energy drink and you would be forgiven for immediately conjuring up images of drinks designed for teenagers - made with liquids in every colour of neon, packed with sugar and a baffling array of artificial ingredients. Now a new brand is giving energy drinks a healthy makeover - creating tasty products that burst with fresh ingredients and are packaged plastic-free....it's a whole new generation.
Virtue drinks are an innovative energy water with zero sugar, zero calories and no sweeteners - instead of the artificial ingredients each can contains as much caffeine as the average cup of coffee, and is all generated from natural sources including ginseng, guarana and yerbe mate - an evergreen tree from the holly family found in the forests of Uruguay.
Changes for the Better
The rise of the so called ' snack grazer' - has also coincided with the growing prominence of several major food habits, including vegan, low calorie, paleo, along with these lactose-free, gluten-free and sugar-free diets that we've discussed. Both emerging and established brands are creating appealing products that appeal to consumers who are looking at snacks not as a naughty, sugar-laden treat but as a convenient, beneficial and appealing part of their daily food regime.
By tapping into these trends, retailers can both satisfy their existing audience and grow a new, reliable fan base looking to be delighted. All respectively bring something new to the offering, whilst providing healthier margins. It’s also worth noting, that because customers are looking for a product that meets their ethical or dietary requirements, it doesn’t mean sacrificing taste or indulgence. Taste is in fact still the number one factor in confectionery (IGN | 2019).