Free From Scrutiny
Free From has been on the most incredible journey.
Growth is 20-30% year in, year out, driven by an increasing Rate of Sale triggering space increases in store and improvements in product taste and range. Working in the Free From category since 2003, initially as a retailer launching Free From ranges, then on the supplier side running manufacturing business, and now as a consultant to the industry, I have been part of this growth.
However, if the category is to continue this way then it has to deliver against the desires and requirements of the ‘lifestyle’ shopper. From now on, that means getting serious about the nutritional profile of Free From bakery.
For an industry that promotes itself as offering healthy alternatives, Free From is hiding a dirty little secret – the nutritional profile of Free From is substantially worse than standard bakery.
However, there are some very positive signs out there, with bakers starting to move beyond the ‘old school’ approach of using rice flour as a base. Rice flour had the effect of creating ranges of products that tasted very ‘samey’ with sometimes off notes and slightly disappointing mouth feel.
The technical challenges confronting Free From bakery products has more to do with chemistry than baking. Technologists are exploring naturally gluten free flours as bases of products: Teff, Quinoa, Sorghum, Millet, and of course Oats. One of the side benefits is that these grains tend to produce flours and flakes that are higher in fibre and nutrients than wheat, barley, or rye.
Teff is attracting a great deal of interest, and I have seen some noteworthy pies, pancakes, and cookies using the flour. Oats bring a lower GI and slightly creamy note to desserts and muffins, while Millet is perhaps the most like-for-like wheat substitute.
Sorghum is being used in some very cutting-edge biscuits and cakes, and we are likely to see more of that. Indeed, blends of these flours are starting to make an appearance to deliver some really stand out products in key bakery categories. These signs of adaptability place Free From in good stead to overcome its kryptonite.
Do you have a healthy Free From product you’d like to launch? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on +44 (0)1803 203387.