'Free from' is a food trend that's here to stay
Consumer demand for 'free from' products is not a passing fad
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.
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.