‘The UK freefrom market alone will be worth £531 million in 2016’

captureIn spite of received wisdom that states you should not snack between meals, snacking has become more and more popular in recent years. The reasons are obvious – we all lead busier lives and as we rush about, whether at work or at home, sometimes it is easier to dish out snack foods rather than listen to our grumbling tummies or children. Combine this with an increase in demand for freefrom foods, and the result is a need for more freefrom snacks.

Mintel estimates that the UK freefrom market alone will be worth £531 million in 2016 (up 13% from 2015); and in a recent YouGov survey 1 in 6 of the UK population believed they have a food allergy or intolerance while 25% of UK households include at least one food allergy or intolerance sufferer

We know from the same YouGov survey that those who choose to eat freefrom (rather than those with food allergies and intolerances who must eat allergenfree food for their own health and safety) spend the most money on food to go when they are at work.

But what ARE snack foods, and what is out there for the discerning consumer who wants to eat healthily, but simply doesn’t have time to make snacks for themselves?

Since the birth of the FreeFrom Food Awards ten years ago we have seen a large increase in products made specifically for the snacking market, to the extent that two years ago we created a category just for Snack Bars. But although snack bars are a large part of the freefrom snacking market – conveniently portable both for the consumer and the retailer due to their small size, able to deliver a decent amount of nutrition per gram, and at a much smaller risk of cross-contamination due to their individual packaging – we also had a huge increase in foods to go products meaning we introduced the Food to go and Vending category in the same year.

The Food to go and Vending category is designed to include foods available from shops, cafes and vending machines, and has seen products entered from scotch eggs to beef jerky, samosa, chicken rolls, roasted cashews, and pork pies in the savoury offer, to chocolate truffles, energy balls and even toaster pastries! The last couple of years have shown us superfood porridge pots & granolas, corn thins, many popcorn variants, muffins, coconut milk smoothies, savoury wraps, soups and this year’s winner – a Quongo (quiche on the go)!

Snack bars are now made of crunchy nut brittle, or perhaps banana flavoured gluten-free oats. Last year we had nutritional chocolate bars suitable for diabetics, raw paleo bars full of nuts and berries, spirulina bars and many different types of protein bars for sports workouts.

But perhaps vending machines are the way to go: food bought from a vending machine has to be completely sealed due to the way it is served! And improvements in technology means you could supply almost anything in a vending machine.  Abercromby vending in Scotland began 10 years ago when the talents of a caterer and a vending engineer were merged – today they have 14 vans supplying fresh healthy soups, sandwiches, ready meals, salads & pasta to vending machines around Glasgow including Glasgow City Airport. It is a short step from here to filling vending machines with allergen-free meals to go, with ingredients for products easily viewable on an electronic display!

By Cressida Langlands, Food Matters