What you need to know

Free-from food has now entered the mainstream, largely as a result of consumers choosing to adopt a free-from diet due to the perception that it is a healthier lifestyle choice. In saying this, sugar is one of the main deterrents to purchasing free-from food. Manufacturers would be wise to make this their priority and reduce the sugar content where possible, otherwise they could run the risk of consumers switching to the next big food trend.

Issues covered in this Report

Free-from is defined as foods that are manufactured and targeted specifically at consumers who suffer from food intolerance and/or food allergies, or who are following avoidance diets. Foods that have been specially manufactured (eg pasta, bread) to cater for a gluten-free diet, for instance, are included within this definition.

For the purpose of this Report, foods targeted at intolerance and allergy sufferers include:

Gluten-free/wheat free

  • A gluten-free diet is one that strictly excludes gluten, a protein present in wheat, barley, rye and spelt. Oats are also included in the EU (European Union) list of gluten-containing cereals although their role in a gluten-free diet remains unclear.

  • Wheat products are often marketed as gluten-free due to the presence of gluten in wheat, however it is also possible for people to have a specific allergy for wheat.

  • Coeliac disease is a digestive condition that is caused by an adverse reaction to gluten. The only treatment for this condition is to follow a gluten-free diet.


  • People who follow a dairy-free diet avoid food and drink that contain one or both of the milk proteins, casein and whey. A dairy-free diet is also followed by vegans for reasons ranging from health, religious and ethical views.

  • Lactose intolerance is a digestive problem caused by an adverse reaction to lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products. Products that are lactose-free do not necessarily mean they are dairy-free as lactose is often removed from milk based products.

  • This category includes cow’s milk alternatives and non-mammalian milk alternatives (eg soya based).

Allergies and intolerances

  • A food allergy can be described as a reaction that the body’s immune system has to specific foods. Allergen reactions can vary from mild to serious and the best way to prevent a food allergy is to eat a free-from alternative or avoid the food that triggers a reaction, eg skin rash, swelling and vomiting.

  • A food intolerance is a reaction that involves the digestive system. Unlike a food allergy, symptoms generally take longer to develop and are not life threatening.

The following allergies and intolerances are examined within this Report:

  • Gluten

  • Wheat

  • Dairy

  • Lactose

  • Nuts and peanuts

  • Fish or shellfish

  • Soya

  • Celery

  • Eggs

  • Red meat

  • Poultry.

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