Free from food has gone mainstream so much so that 78% of Irish people who follow a gluten-free diet have not even been diagnosed as coeliac, writes Áilín Quinlan.
Who does not remember the days when gluten-free bread fell apart in your hands as soon as you tried to butter it; when gluten-free pasta went soggy in the saucepan, and when nobody had even heard of a gluten-free pizza, birthday cake or beer?
It’s not so long ago that free from foods were perceived by most consumers as medicinal-type products for people who had conditions such as coeliac disease, food intolerances or allergies.
Yet, nowadays, free from has gone mainstream - and to such an extent, according to the research, that 78% of Irish people who follow a gluten-free diet have not even been diagnosed as coeliac.
Nearly half of these (38%) don’t actually have any intolerance to wheat or sensitivities - they simply perceive gluten free to be a healthier lifestyle choice.”
So it’s no wonder free from goods are taking up more and more shelf-space in the big supermarkets - and, in fact, have become an increasingly prominent contributor to the Irish economy.
Figures show that the gluten-free market alone here is now estimated to be worth some €66 million.
This increasingly prominent food sector now even has its own awards ceremony, the Freefrom Food Awards, Ireland, which was established independently by John Burke, founder of GFLife. The FreeFrom Food Awards were started in the UK in 2007, being the only industry awards for FreeFrom foods, by FoodsMatter and FreeFrom Foods Matter.
After acting as a judge at the UK FreeFrom Awards for more than seven years, John adapted the awards format to an Irish setting.
This year’s awards, which took place in May, involved the judging of more than 580 products and featured companies like the 9 White Deer, which scooped no fewer than four awards for its superb beers, or Natures Oils/Taste of Goodness, whose range of sauces won an eye- watering seven awards at the event.
Then there’s BFree, which walked away with the Best Free From Product for its delicious Sweet Potato Wraps - over a total of 400 brands across 40 categories.
The hugely successful Irish pizza firm [url=http://www.goodfellaspizzas.com/ Goodfella’s[/url] was another to crack out the bubbly when it enjoyed success on the double, winning Double Gold in the Pizza category at the awards.
The still-young but thriving company Maria Lucia Bakes picked up Merit and Innovation Awards for its products at the ceremony, while Miena’s Handmade Irish Nougat no fewer than three accolades - gold, silver and bronze.
Superfoods firm Nua Naturals won gold for its turmeric lattes at the same awards.
Many award-winning products are available from online store SoulBia, which is another firm making waves in the world of high-quality, artisan, free-from Irish foods - the company is experiencing such success that it’s planning to open its first physical shop shortly.
Another heartening success story in Ireland’s burgeoning free from sector is Iswari, whose Buddha’s Awakening Breakfast Mix range is selling in more than 18 countries around the world - and not only that, the company’s all-new SHINE range of products, launched in February is already proving a success.
Last but not least in this list of thriving Irish firms, is Revive Active, whose latest product , 'Beauty Complex,' an original scientific formulation, contains a combination of age-combating natural ingredients which help contribute to younger, fresher skin.
Launched in May, this is the sixth product in the range offered by this award-winning company which is one of the fastest-growing super-supplement companies in the country.
The Beauty Complex was inspired, says Revive Active’s Director of Research and Development Daniel Jones, by a mixture of demand from its customers and retailers, new scientific findings about ageing and a deeper understanding of the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of the human ageing process and what it does to the skin.
The firm, which is known for its strongly health-related range, including the successful Revive Active Health Food Supplements, took the decision to go down the skincare route at the request of many of the pharmacies and retail teams which deal with the company.
Revive Active is just one of many Irish companies to recognise that increased consumer focus on natural, healthy, high-quality products is driving the growing free-from market, creating employment and opening up a new and rapidly expanding food sector.
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