Food and Drink PR expert writes on Helping Your Business Digest the Free-From Trend

by Holyrood Partnership

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

Wheat induced whining? Gluten gluttony giving you gas? We take a look at the latest free-from trendsAn image of a small loaf on a plate image for Food and Drink PR

SINCE 2014 there has been a huge rise in the number gluten and dairy free products, restaurants and influencers, making gluten free and veganism one of food’s biggest trends.

So what is gluten?

Gluten is a family of proteins found in cereal grains like wheat, spelt, rye and barley, ingredients that are commonly found in bread, cakes and pasta.

Coeliac disease, is an intolerance to gluten that effects 1 in every 100 people in the UK, prohibiting their bodies from properly digesting the protein, with some unpleasant side effects.

Before the Free From trend took off around 2012, gluten free goods were most commonly available on prescription through the NHS – where sufferers of the disease could expect a monthly loaf of bread, pasta, crackers and the occasional “treat”.

However, recently a number of food, beauty and lifestyle bloggers have hopped on the bandwagon advocating a diet without gluten transforming the “free-from” trend into a multi-million pound industry.

A popular new trend

In the past five years in the UK, searches for “gluten free” have rapidly risen with more and more people eager to find out more about this popular trend.

What’s more, last year the UK Free From market was valued at £438 million – an increase 36% on 2015. Gluten Free continues to draw in shoppers as product choice widens and ranges continue to improve.

It is evident that this trend has huge implications for businesses; however, is the Free From trend just a fad likely to fade into obscurity leaving shelves over stocked with gluten free products? Or does getting behind this trend have huge potential benefits for your business?

Controversial and dangerous?

On the one hand, jumping whole heartedly into this trend has caused some business controversy as many advocators of the gluten free lifestyle have been caught out, by jumping on board with something without checking the facts or implications.

Belle Gibson, an Australian 23 year old “wellness guru” claimed in a blog to have cured her terminal brain cancer by cutting out gluten and sugar. She made $280,000 for sales of her app through the Apple store, and an advance of $132,000 for her book by the publisher Penguin.

However, it was soon discovered that she had never had a brain tumour – not exactly a ‘little white lie’.

This claim of a drastic change to her diet preyed on some of society’s most vulnerable, as suffers of illness purchased her app to combat their ailments.

Called out by 60 minutes Tara Brown in a very tense interview, Belle is now awaiting trial for misleading the public and breaching Australian consumer law.

This was a PR disaster for her brand, the app and for Penguin her publisher- who had to hire a crisis PR firm to create a plan to deal with the backlash of the scandal. The Belle Gibson scandal caught Penguin out in a controversy by too eagerly backing a trend without all the information- something many businesses are right wary of.

In fact, the trend was sent up by US Talk Show host, Jimmy Kimmel in a feature he routinely uses to expose people talking about a subject they know little about.

Consequences for business?

While Free From leaves some of us rolling our eyes at the idea of yet another fad, there is no denying that this trend has big consequences for business and is not showing signs of dwindling. Moving with the times and getting involved with relevant lifestyle and market trends is good for business, as it keeps things fresh and vibrant attracting new customers.

Those individuals who suffer from Coeliac will be all too familiar with the struggle of eating out before gluten free popularity rose, and they will be seriously grateful to have a place offering tasty treats accessible to them. This can give you a leg up on competitors who do not provide alternatives as it creates loyalty with customers who genuinely suffer from coeliac disease.

What’s more, getting on board with trends like these as they take off could do wonders for your company’s exposure as it is far easier to rank highly on google for new trends that are taking off than to move a top hitter from their spot!

This trend is hugely popular among millennials, who have the highest influential power. Making your business appeal to today’s youth is something that can only help your business.

It’s important to keep your business moving with the times, although new trends can sometimes seem like a fad, offering new dishes and vibrant options can be a good way to freshen up your business and appealing to a young audience can do wonders.

If you are going to get on board the free-from bandwagon, make sure you’re not free from the facts.

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