Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 19 September 2018

'Free from' is a food trend that's here to stay

Consumer demand for 'free from' products is not a passing fad

Organic food is increasingly in demand
Organic food is increasingly in demand
Grace Maher

Grace Maher

While food trends come and go, the 'free from' category is growing. A Bord Bia survey carried out earlier this year found that 20pc of respondents had purchased gluten-free products.

Other 'free from' categories include wheat, dairy, sugar and lactose. While this may not be good news for some farmers, it does provide opportunities for others.

In Ireland, 4pc of the population have a wheat allergy or are coeliac, which necessitates a gluten-free diet.

This means that the other 12pc in the survey are buying based on "lifestyle choices" and the perceived benefits of avoiding gluten rather than for medical reasons. Plant-based milk alternatives such as soya, almond and rice milk are also gaining increased retail share as consumers look at alternatives to dairy and explore how they can bring plant protein benefits into their diet.

Convenience foods

Good quality convenience foods are always in demand. But on closer examination, many foods marketed as convenience foods are high in salt or fat, so there is certainly room for improvement in that category.

Trends and fads come and go and no one is encouraging farmers to follow trends blindly and adapt their farming systems accordingly.

However, it is clear that some trends such as gluten free are here to stay and that is something farmers wishing to add value to primary products may wish to consider.

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Regardless of what is fashionable in food circles, one motivating factor for consumers appears to be adopting a healthy diet. Cooking food from scratch while using good quality ingredients continues to be one of the best ways in which to do achieve this.

It is not a new concept or trend, just basic common sense.

Nonetheless, it should not be ignored by farmers or those wishing to dip their toes into the food production business.

Grace Maher is development officer with the IOFGA, grace.maher@iofga.org.


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