Our desire for healthy living is transforming the way we live, there’s no escaping from it. ‘Better for you’ is one of the biggest motivators for food and drink purchases, particularly with younger consumers. We’ve been through Stoptober, Public Health England’s anti-smoking initiative and Go Sober For October, with people trying a month without alcohol and raising money for charity. But the peak focus on healthy living is in January.

The health professionals are constantly urging us to take more exercise, cut down our drinking to 14 units of alcohol a week (some GPs say 20 units, but we’ll keep quiet about that), be strict about our salt intake, stop smoking if we haven’t done so yet, watch our weight and curb our cholesterol.

Growing numbers of us are following their advice, albeit to varying extents. Sales of lower strength alcohol drinks are increasing by leaps and bounds. And as more people are found to be intolerant to different food and drink items, some with extreme reactions, there are free-from alternatives on offer to an increasing list of everyday ingredients.

But the biggest turnaround is that instead of thinking we’re living the dream when we eat meat, which is a hangover from wartime rationing and scarcity, the vegan/animal product-free phenomenon has hit a new high in popular awareness. The latest series of the Great British Bake Off, stirred up the shires and the tabloids when they had a vegan week in the show, focusing on animal-free products.

Next, the Oxford University scientists hit the headlines when they advised us to go flexitarian and eat one serving of red meat per week, to save the planet. The study found that if the world moved to this type of diet, greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture would be reduced by more than half. ‘Flexitarian’ is of course basically the Mediterranean diet, with its reduced meat content. It happened in the first place because meat was scarce, but we’ll overlook that…

And then this year’s World Vegan Day, on November 1 raised awareness of the plant-based food cause to new heights – on line, in print, on the Chris Evans Show, everywhere. It goes on and on.

The UK supermarkets have embraced the vegan trend with a passion. In the summer Sainsbury’s announced that British shoppers would soon be able to find “fake” meats in the chiller section alongside real meats. Tesco launched the UK’s first plant-based steak in 400 stores in a deal with Vivera, the Dutch supplier. Morrisons said they would stocking bean “non carne,” “veggies in blankets” and vegan cheeses.

The big suppliers have been onto free from and healthy living for some time. Danone owns Alpro and Innocent is owned by Coke, who recently also brought out their Fuze Tea iced tea drink. We look at what the suppliers have come up with recently and what they have to say about the ‘healthy’ phenomenon.

Birds Eye, part of Nomad Foods, has launched a new range of vegetarian ready meals, with its ‘Veggie Bowls’ set, in their words, to capitalise on the growth of ‘flexitarian’ diets and provide shoppers with a simple, tasty way to eat nutritious meals. The new range includes internationally inspired modern recipes such as Asian Sweet & Sour Noodles and Moroccan Tagine, containing high levels of plant protein while being low in saturated fats, with no artificial colours flavours or preservatives.

The launch of the new range will be supported by a digital campaign including video-on-demand content. The campaign will target shoppers in January, when the focus on healthy living is at its peak after Christmas.

Baxters Food Group has responded to the consumer trend for healthy eating with the development of its Super Good soup brand, which offer the perfect balance of delicious flavours and ‘great for you’ ingredients. John McMullen, CEO of Baxters European Business Unit, says Super Good has driven category growth by attracting new, younger consumers into ambient soups, while helping to tackle the perception that fresh soups are healthier than tinned. Baxters is backing the brand with a significant advertising campaign this winter, its first since 2012. Running until February the “We Make Super” TV advert tells of what makes Baxters soup different to others, through great quality ingredients and “super heroes” like Lossiemouth smoked haddock supplier Billy Edwards and Chef and Development Manager Darren Sievewright.

Another seriously large supplier, Dairy Crest has expanded its Cathedral City portfolio with the launch of a range of lactose free Cheddar, in response to increasing demand for Free From alternatives, which have grown to over £800m. The range, consisting of 200g blocks will be available in Mature and Mild variants.

Senior Brand Manager, Jenny Blanco Barcia, explains the move: “According to figures from Mintel, around four in ten adults now regularly buy Free from food and drink, and within this 16% buy Lactose Free products.

“Whilst all aged, hard cheeses are naturally low in lactose, we are going the extra mile and testing every batch of our Lactose Free Cheddar to guarantee there is no lactose left, so whether consumers are lactose intolerant or it’s simply a lifestyle choice, they can still enjoy the great taste of Cathedral City.”

Asda and Tesco are listing the new lines within their Chilled Free From fixtures. Cathedral City Lactose Free 200g Blocks carry a MRSP of £2.25. Fuze Tea, the iced tea drink launched by Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) earlier this year is running a new, integrated marketing campaign highlights the importance of slowing down and taking a moment for yourself. The ‘Serve yourself a little me-time’ campaign across TV, video and digital out-of-home advertising follows a national poll from Fuze Tea revealing that four in ten (44%) Brits feel they rarely get any me-time, with moments lasting for a maximum of 55 minutes, the least amount in Europe.

FrieslandCampina UK’s YAZOO flavoured milk brand has carved out a name for itself with young consumers. Low in fat, with no added sugar, no artificial sweeteners and less than 100 calories per bottle, YAZOO No Added Sugar is the perfect lunchbox filler for kids, and is on the crest of the healthy wave, says Wayne Thomson, Customer Marketing Manager at FrieslandCampina:

“The ongoing sugar debate has been taking hold of the headlines for the past year, and with new Public Health England (PHE) recommended guidelines, the childhood obesity crisis has been at the forefront. With this in mind children’s lunchboxes are evolving, parents are becoming more aware than ever before of what their children are eating. Likewise, schools are closely monitoring what is being consumed by pupils during school hours.

“Sugar is a concern that affects all food and drinks manufacturers. It’s absolutely right that flavoured milk brands should have a reduced or no added sugar variant within their range to offer consumers the choice. Even more so with the introduction of the recent sugar levy and new PHE targets set for juice and milk drink companies.

YAZOO No Added Sugar provides a great opportunity for retailers and for parents it presents them with a choice when buying products for their children’s lunchboxes.

The gluten free category is worth over £1.3bn and is growing at nearly 40% YOY, says Kevin Butterworth, Marketing Director at Symington’s, makers of ilumi, a dedicated Free From range of authentic Asian inspired rice noodle snack pots, which is naturally dairy and gluten free.

“The ilumi brand has seen the biggest growth in ambient pot snacks, a new subcategory in Free From. The product is available in four flavours: Singapore Rice Noodle Snack Pot, Tom Yum Rice Noodle Pot, Vietnamese Beef Pho Rice Noodle Pot and Sweet Chilli Rice Noodle Pot. Ilumi have added a number of new family friendly Disney Kitchen products to the core range, with the launch of Disney Kitchen ilumi For Kids. The products, including porridge, meal pots and snacks, all feature the identifiable Disney Kitchen banner alongside the characters children know and love.

Ilumi’s Free From Meal Pots are also available in a variety of tasty flavours including Vegetable Risotto, Mild Beef Chilli with brown rice and Meatballs with rice and tomato sauce. Also gluten and dairy free, the pots contain one of your five a day, are low in fat and contain no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.

As well as these major manufacturers, a host of specialist suppliers with a particular niche are making a contribution to the healthy and ‘free from’ revolution. Here is a selection of suppliers to watch:

ManíLife, a multi-award winning, peanut butter brand made in the UK with no palm oil and no added sugar, is spearheading a new trend for craft peanut butter, applying the same level of craft seen in coffee, chocolate and beer. Founded in 2015, ManíLife have secured deals with Ocado, M&S, Selfridges, Holland & Barrett, Pod, Gousto, and Hotel Chocolat and have won Taste Awards and Quality Food Awards.

With the Government’s target to reduce added sugar in food and drink products by at least 20% by 2020, people are more conscious than ever about their food consumption, with a significant rise in consumers seeking out healthier choices.

Matt Legon, Founder of Gnaw Chocolate has developed a range of freefrom, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free and No added Sugar products. Gnaw’s new range of premium 72% cocoa dark chocolate bars appeals to the growing number of UK consumers who have a food intolerance or are making lifestyle choices about the type of food they eat.

Hunter & Gather Foods’ Supertreats bars are made from superfood carob instead of cocoa, and sweetened with low GI coconut blossom nectar.

Refined sugar free and caffeine free, unlike milk, dark or raw chocolate, the bars are gluten free, soy free, 100% natural, organic and ethically produced. Supertreats bars are stocked in a growing number of leading retailers in the UK, including Whole Foods Market, Ocado, Planet Organic, As Nature Intended and Amazon.

Jude’s, the British family run ice cream brand, has bagged over 40 Great Taste Awards and is known for being experimental with exciting new flavours, the latest being lower calorie Salted Caramel, Vanilla Bean, Peanut Butter and Vegan Chocolate, available in 460ml tubs.

And finally, don’t forget the baby food! For Aisha is a specialist baby food brand that caters for dietary requirements such as halal and dairyfree, egg-free, nut-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and soya-free. Set up in 2014 by baby food expert Mark Salter their recipes are inspired by cuisines from around the world. Retailers stocking For Aisha include Sainsbury’s, Ocado, Whole Foods, Tesco and ASDA. For Aisha won Best Children’s Food Brand in the World Food Innovation Awards 2018 and Silver in the Best Children’s Food Brand category in the Mumii Family Awards 2018.

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