Emma McGeown
Emma McGeown is a Research Analyst for Mintel Ireland. Her focus areas include food & drink, retail and tourism within the Irish market.

Consumer diets are changing from trying to shed the extra pounds by any means necessary, towards healthy eating habits to keep weight in check.  There has been a shift in their their attention away from weight loss dieting, with only 7% of Irish consumers following a weight loss diet provided by a slimming club, in 2013, towards more natural or ‘real’ foods and compensating for past unhealthiness with present healthy diets. Indeed, 51% of UK adults think it is important to buy products that contain all-natural ingredients. This demand has not gone unmissed by food companies, with natural/no additive food claims for Irish products more than doubling from 13% in 2005 to 28% in 2014.

Irish consumers are increasingly seeking ‘natural’ foods which has helped to develop diet trends, such as the Paleo, or caveman, diet. However by sticking to natural foods, this has made consumers more aware of the foods which don’t agree with them – leading to the rise in free-from diets. In Ireland, a third (33%) of Irish consumers who claim to be intolerant to certain food types have self-diagnosed, compared to 27% who have been diagnosed by a doctor or dietician.

The free-from foods market in Ireland is growing, an increase of 58% in sales between 2009 and 2014 saw the market reach €33.9 million in 2014. Around 8% of Irish consumers are intolerant or allergic to gluten and 8% to wheat. In addition 7% are intolerant or allergic to diary. The rise in demand for free-from products has lead to mainstream brands innovating. For example, Nestlé launched its own gluten free corn flakes (2014) and Philadelphia UK launched a lactose free Philadelphia spread in 2015.

However, brands are learning that to be successful in the market of free-from foods, companies must market their products as a tasty indulgence, rather than just promoting free-from claims. Those intolerant must purchase free-from foods and therefore don’t have a lot of alternatives; however, those following a free-from diet as part of a healthy lifestyle will look for the taste factor over the ingredients used. Moving forward, Mintel predicts that taste and brand personality will be the key to future success in the free-from foods category, no matter how nutritious the product.

Cian Purcell-Milton from McCann Blue attended the event and found it insightful, informative and helpful. Discover his key takeaways and what you can learn from Mintel here.

Emma McGeown is a Mintel Ireland Research Analyst and joined the company in September 2014. Her focus areas include FMCG, technology, retail and tourism within the Irish market.