Amy Price, the firm’s senior food and drink analyst, said: “The free-from market has benefitted from a surge in new product development by the specialist brands and own-label players, an increase in merchandising space in-store and endorsement from celebrities as far and wide as Bill Clinton, Kim Kardashian and Andy Murray.”
The sector had also benefitted from increased awareness and diagnosis among allergy sufferers and those self-diagnosing, she added.
The market consists mainly of gluten- or wheat-free products, which are valued at £160M and account for nearly half (47%) the market.
Sales of free-from foods nearly doubled between 2007 and this year. About one-in-five (20%) of consumers have bought free-from food.
Dairy free products, which are valued at £157M, account for 46% of the market. Dairy was the single most avoided food type because of allergies and intolerance.
Nearly one-in-10 (8%) consumers avoided all products containing dairy – including lactose, cow’s milk and cow’s milk products.
Another 7% avoid dairy for health and lifestyle reasons.
In total, 8% avoided wheat, 9% avoided gluten, 9% poultry and 8% nuts.
Worth paying for
But cost continues to act as a barrier for many consumers – particularly in categories such as bread. Only 14% of users of these products say that they are "worth paying more for", said Mintel.
Combined sales of free-from and meat-free foods are set to top £1bn next year after achieving an estimated value of £949M this year.
Health-conscious consumers were choosing meat-free meals due to concerns about red meat, according to Mintel.
Price said: “The meat-free segment has benefitted from a more mainstream positioning than free-from foods, with around one-in-10 Brits avoiding red meat as part of a healthy lifestyle.
“Perfectly positioned to thrive in the current climate, meat-free foods benefit from a cost, health, ethical and environmental stand as well as providing variety in consumer diets,” said Price.
Nearly four-in-10 (38%) of shoppers reported buying vegetarian or meat-free food.
Up to 15% of Britons choose to keep red meat out of their diet. Most (13%) choose to avoid red meat for health and lifestyle reasons (13%), while 2% of consumers avoided it because they have an allergy or intolerance.
About 6% of those surveyed classified themselves as vegetarians.
Meat-Free market in numbers
- £607M – value of meat-free foods in 2012.
- £214M – value of meat-free ready meals.
- 13% – Consumers avoiding red meat as part of a healthy lifestyle.
- 42% − Consumer who do not like the taste of meat substitutes.
- 36% − Consumers who believe vegetarian and meat-free foods taste bland.