"Free from" market

by Célia Le Pesquer - Actualité

For consumers, food can generate health risks. For this reason, they are on the lookout for healthy products, natural products and products that have undergone only minimum processing. This contributes to the pleasure they obtain from consuming the product.

Products said to be "free from" appear to provide a suitable response for consumers in this quest for healthy products.


It is, however, necessary to distinguish between 3 types of "free from" offerings:

  • Offerings "free from undesirable substances" 
  • Offerings "free from nutritionally-incorrect ingredients"
  • Offerings "free from allergens"

Free from undesirable substances

 Offerings "free from undesirable substances" comprise products that promote the absence of harmful, or allegedly harmful, ingredients.

These include, for example, pesticides, antibiotics, GMOs, additives and preservatives.

According to the Kantar TNS Food 360 study conducted in 2016 in partnership with XTC for SIAL, more than 6 in 10 consumers worldwide prefer to buy "free from" products, and more specifically products free from colourings and from preservatives, or which are 100%-natural.

Discover trends and food around the world.


It is in particular in the so-called "emergent" countries, and more precisely in Asia, that consumers demonstrate the greatest interest for "free from" products: 85% of consumers in Southeast Asia, and 80% in China.

To a lesser degree, Europeans are also sensitive to this argument, in particular in Spain, where 71% of consumers favour these kinds of products.


Free from nutritionally-incorrect ingredients

The quest for the natural as sought by consumers goes beyond these products "free from undesirable substances", to also include products that are "free from nutritionally-incorrect ingredients", i.e.: products that do not contain certain ingredients considered to be such (added sugar, salt, fats, palm oil, etc.).

These ingredients are added during the processing of food products, and they generate mistrust among consumers with regard to their nutritional impact.


Worldwide, therefore, two-thirds of consumers prefer to consume products that have undergone little or no processing, in order to be sure that they contain no suspect ingredients.

Free from allergens

 Lastly, the "free from allergens" product offering includes products without gluten and without lactose. It was aimed initially at a target audience of those intolerant to these ingredients, estimated to account for 1.5% of the population, and proposed products for highly specific niches, with a medical connotation.


Yet for some years, no doubt on account of the stance of famous opinion leaders (actors, sportspeople, etc.), who praise the virtues of gluten-free nutrition, for example, this target audience has expanded to include new consumers who, without being allergic or intolerant, are looking for the natural option and are attentive to their health needs. In this way, "free from" has seen a boom worldwide. The innovative offering of products "free from gluten" and "free from lactose" has been developed by focusing on pleasure for the palate, with new unashamedly indulgent offerings that have come to the fore in the past 5 to 6 years, and which have been particularly visible at all the SIAL exhibitions worldwide

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