Study: Demand for free-from foods set to grow

London / UK. (hrzns) Having clearly labelled free-from dishes on the menu will become an increasingly vital part of a restaurant´s offer as a growing proportion of the population become concerned with food ingredients, allergens and the desire to eat a more health-conscious diet. Foodservice insights consultancy Horizons FS is urging operators to go further by offering a choice of free-from dishes.

«We have been monitoring consumer demand for free-from dishes for some time now», said Horizons director of marketing Emma Read. «Demand has risen considerably this year and a number of the big chain operators are already embracing the free-from concept by offering dedicated menus of gluten-free dishes».

«Operators are not only competing with each other on quality, price and ambience, but increasingly on the dishes they have on their menus. A willingness to include free-from dishes will be important to attract a certain segment of the population», she added.

A recent consumer survey (June 2014) undertaken by Horizons showed that one in ten consumers sought vegetarian options on menus while a similar number looked for calorie information, nine percent wanted low- or reduced-fat dishes and four percent were looking for gluten-free dishes. With women more engaged on food issues than men, 37 percent of women mentioned at least one healthy or lifestyle factor that was important to them when they chose where to eat out.

Operators are becoming increasingly aware of this growing audience. In a Horizons/JRA survey of foodservice operators (October 2014) 78 percent acknowledged that gluten-free dishes were gaining in importance, with 60 percent saying that dairy-free dishes had also become important to their customers.

Horizons´ Menurama survey, which tracks changes across over 120 restaurant and quick service brands, showed that the increase in gluten-free dishes on menus has increased 135 percent since last year, and that 23 percent of brands now offer a gluten-free option or in some cases a gluten-free menu including ASK, Carluccio´s, Frankie + Benny´s and PizzaExpress – a 21 percent rise in the number offering such dishes in 2010.

«We are going to continue to see a big change over the next twelve months as foodservice operators realise that a growing number of consumers are concerned with free-from dishes. Operators need to go further than the legislation dictates and make this an important part of their marketing mix», added Read.