“Free from” – the next big thing in food, personal care, and OTC

May 24, 2018By Focus on the Pharmacy Front End Blog, Independent Pharmacy, Step into Natural

by Jen Johnston, CHHC, senior marketing services account manager, for the Step into Natural blog series

Free from can be described as “denoting or relating to food products that do not contain ingredients known to cause a reaction in people with food allergies or intolerances.”  In 2016, New Hope Network reported a CDC statistic that showed allergy rates increased about 50% between 1997 and 2011, and food allergies now affect approximately one in 13 children, roughly two kids per classroom. The “Big 8” foods (milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nut allergens, fish allergens, shellfish, soy, and wheat) are responsible for 90% of all allergic reactions to food in this country.

However, people with allergies and intolerances are not the only people choosing free-from products. As cited on foodbuinessnews.net, “43% of consumers agree that free-from foods are healthier than foods without a free-from claim, while another three in five believe the fewer ingredients a product has, the healthier it is (59%).”

And free-from trends have infiltrated non-food products as well, including supplements and personal care. Nielsen Product Insider, powered by Label Insight, shows that personal care products that are free from certain ingredients are on the rise.

What are “free-from” shoppers looking for in personal care products?

Free from:

  • sulfates
  • parabens
  • PEG
  • fragrance
  • phthalates
  • artificial colors

EWG.org cited The NPD Group when they reported that “40% of women usually buy products free of parabens, phthalates, and sulfates.” How are you calling these products out on your shelves to make the sale?

Originally marketed almost exclusively to people with allergies, free-from products (both food and non-food) have gone mainstream. "Consumers are associating 'free from' with a natural form of health in general," said Fraser McKevitt of Kantar Research in this BBC news article.

Influencers in the allergy space include the Food Allergy Research & Education blog (FARE) and Allergic Child. You can also find a good list of other allergy blogs here.

The Little Remedies® OTC line has built their brand image out of what they are free from. Their tagline is Everything they need. Nothing they don’t.® Many of their items are free from gluten, dyes, and parabens.

SmartyPants® vitamins for kids and adults also boast that they are free from the top eight major allergens – milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nut allergens, fish allergens, shellfish, soy, and wheat. They are also non-GMO and gluten-free, and do not use any synthetic colors, artificial flavors, or artificial sweeteners.

On the food side, there are many free-from brands, including  Enjoy Life Foods®, owned by Mondelez International, and Australian-based Freedom Foods.

To make shopping for these products easier for your customers with allergies, consider putting together an endcap or small section of items across all categories that are free from common allergens, or use signage to call out the items out at shelf.