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Free-From is Big Opportunity for Food Retailers

June 6, 2013 by Newsfeed Editor  

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In a recent commentary in Supermarket News, guest author Ken Harris takes us through the opportunity that is gluten free foods in Center Store, but also spells out the risks and suggests a much bigger opportunity. Harris is the Chairman of Enjoy Life Foods, a free-from snack and cookie maker, and the former CEO of Kantar Retail.

Harris tells us that gluten free is a natural growth category for supermarkets because the consumers are already in the store buying food and one out of every 133 consumers in the U.S. suffers from celiac disease and/or gluten intolerance. The challenge for retailers is determining if gluten free is a sustainable opportunity or a fad like low-carb, low fat and fat free. The real medical need would suggest it is here to stay, but there is also a significant portion of consumers that are simply choosing to go GF because it is fashionable.

The column tells us that a much bigger and more diverse opportunity may lie in the free-from category; GF is actually a sub-set of this category that serves consumers with food allergies and/or intolerances beyond gluten. Gluten free is only 25 percent of this group. There are 75 million more people with additional food allergies and intolerances.

These consumers shop in supermarkets and food retailers, but often get their free-from foods from specialty stores and online. These consumers, especially those with allergies, make terrific consumers because they purchase three-times the amount as a regular consumer. Free-from consumers often buy premium and rare ingredients and make meals from scratch making them very profitable.

As GF, free-from, natural and organic products gain steam and find distribution in more traditional food stores, the needs of these manufacturers and their retail partners are going to grow. Evidence suggests that if these products are available on-shelf and consumers can find them, a rare growth opportunity in Center Store can be achieved. The members of World Alliance for Retail Excellence & Standards are uniquely positioned to provide at-retail merchandising and marketing help.

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