Specific and diverse diets are being taken more and more seriously in the food and drink sector and producers and consumers alike are reaping the benefits as a result. It’s not solely about allergy restrictive diets any more and demand isn’t always as clear-cut as a simple vegetarian or vegan menu. There is a growing trend of people seeking out healthier food and free-from nutrition for health and lifestyle reasons. So how is the industry responding to this growing niche of varied and tailored diets?
What exactly are customers looking for?
“Health is becoming an increasingly important factor with consumers,” says Sammie Currie of The Triangle Nutrition Ltd, who make a range of healthy snacks, “68% of UK adults believing they should eat more healthily*.” The healthy noodles and Light Bites producers also report that there has been a rise in the popularity of vegan and gluten-free snacks this year.
When Oh! Naturelle sampled their dairy-free, vegan-friendly coconut milk ice cream in stores across the UK, they say they met countless people who had ditched dairy because of skin issues, lactose intolerances, sinus issues or were simply reducing their intake to rebalance their diets. Co-founder, Aisling Murphy says, “Now, over 1 in 3 shoppers buy into dairy-free* showing that this market is no longer just for the intolerant. Most people are opting for dairy-free products for health reasons. This is particularly true of coconut-based dairy alternatives, which have been lauded as incredibly healthy.”
“One particular thing we’ve noticed is the increasing need for plant-based milks in both retail and food manufacturing,” says Sally Patterson of The Coconut Company who produce vegan and organic coconut products, “Nearly all our offering is dairy-free and gluten-free, so we can cater for a variety of dietary needs from lactose intolerance to raw-vegan!”
With such a broad range of dietary approaches out there, is there a particular trend that stands out at the moment?
Aisling Murphy of Oh! Naturelle has noticed something big. She says, “The flexitarian diet is a huge market for us. With sales of dairy-free products soaring and countless lifestyle bloggers and superstars like Beyoncé publicly promoting the virtues of the plant-based diet, the rise of flexitarianism is here. Flexitarians eat a predominantly vegetarian and occasionally vegan diet, without the restriction of ‘never’ eating meat or fish. This diet isn’t viewed as ‘cutting down’ but instead on exploration and trying new things.”
Top Quality and Tasty
So, with such a shift in taste and demand, we asked our exhibitors what they would say to convince a food industry buyer to consider catering to varied diets better.
Oh! Naturelle’s Aisling Murphy puts great emphasis on not fobbing off the discerning consumer with sub-standard produce just to tick the dietary requirement boxes. Their own uncompromising approach to quality and taste has resulted in their ice cream winning three gold stars in the Great Taste Awards. Aisling says, “There have been a lot of entrants to the dairy-free or healthy ice cream market in the last year. However, whilst they are labelled as 'free-from' a lot can simply be free-from flavour! My advice would be that just because you have to follow a free-from diet does not mean that the customer is unfussy when it comes to the quality i.e. taste and texture. Or that they're not going to turn the pack around and be horrified at the number of mysterious ingredients added to create the alternative to dairy. We have found there's no need to add in un-necessary lab created stabilisers, so we cater to a wider variety of dietary requirements as a result.”
And The Triangle Nutrition Ltd agree that “although taste and health don’t always go hand-in-hand when it comes to convenience foods, our brands challenge this idea.” They are there to help the buyer find the best in health snack taste and quality for their customers: “We aim to satisfy consumers by tending to their desires, needs, and ever-growing health conscious requirements with our Numai, Nutripot and Light Bites brands. By producing products low in salt, sugar and fat, but high in protein, fibre and taste, our Light Bites popped chips and bars, NutriPot lunch pots and Numai noodles will satisfy consumers taste buds, whilst fitting in with their healthy lifestyles.”
Meanwhile, Sally Patterson highlights the advantages of product flexibility. She says, “Our coconut milk powder is convenient, has a long shelf life, avoids food wastage and the need to ship vast quantities of water over the high seas. We offer both organic and a more economic non-organic version – both vegan, and our clients use the milk in anything from ice-cream and curry mixes to vegan porridge pots!”
With all these new dietary demands out there, thankfully there is a veritable spread of products on offer to meet the growing market. You can sample and see all our exhibitors’ products at the Food & Drink Expo this year. Why not pop by and get the lowdown on catering to your customers’ changing needs. It’s easier and tastier than you might first think!
Nutripot, Numai Noodles and Lite Bites (The Triangle Nutrition Ltd)
The Coconut Company