What we can learn from the ‘Free From’ brands

The opportunity here is to abandon the idea of solving a ‘niche’ need, redefine our focus and to champion a different way to eat. 

Food has never been at such a premium. We all know that there have been some extraordinary and very exciting changes in our understanding and appreciation of our food of late. In response, food brands are competing to be the most creative, the most campaignable. Health too has never been at such a premium and so high on everyone’s agenda. And if we look at this intersection of food and health, we are seeing what we believe to be a new macro influence- stemming from the phenomenal growth of one particular sector—that could radically change the future direction of food and its brand offers: allergen-free

Allergen-free brands are rapidly becoming mainstream and it is now such a recognized market that the name convention Free From has become synonymous in the UK with foods, brands, and ranges that cater to those with allergies. And we are pleased—we think of them as a new way of eating for everyone, not a restriction for the few. New brand thinking is changing people’s lives and lifestyles and we think it can also bring excitement and innovation to mainstream food.

We are seeing both existing and new brands respond to food allergies, sensitivities and the lifestyle changes of consumers by developing new languages and aesthetics that are changing the perception of this market from staid, limited, mundane and bland to a fresh, exciting, varied and easy way to eat. In this way, these brands are building (a new) desire amongst their established audience and—maybe more significantly—now drawing in a brand new food savvy audience.

Allergen-free consumers are foodies not faddies and with this growing market high on consumers’, retailers’ and the nation’s agenda it is important for brands to recognize the power of effective design in opening up a forward thinking, food-focused approach in a world where food can often seem restricted and side-lined.

Alpro has been at the leading edge of bringing Free From products into the mainstream. Through storytelling and innovation it has created a compelling brand proposition that offers healthy alternatives to dairy products. And we are seeing exciting allergen innovation—and a marked new direction for the future face of food—from new brands such as ilumi.

Photo: visual identity and packaging for a new non-allergic food brand ilumi
Photo: visual identity and packaging for a new non-allergic food brand ilumi

A range of 100% natural nut, milk and gluten free gourmet convenience meals, Pearlfisher designed ilumi to reflect the exciting truth behind its food; that it’s full of taste, variety and cooking expertise while still being allergy free. The brand philosophy focuses on food without sacrifice, creating tolerance rather than intolerance and bringing to life a forward thinking, food-focused approach and creating a connected community around the brand.

It is the creation of this complete world of food and food experience that has already galvanized a foodie revolution and, with the growing influence of this market, is now taking this connection to food to a whole new level. Foodies are looking to get the most from their food emotionally, physically and intellectually and buying into the idea—and celebration—of ‘being in the know’ that is at the core of the new Free From approach. An approach that we believe now needs to be adopted and adapted mainstream as consumers increasingly look for new, more direct and effective connections made by trusted sources, brands and thought leaders.

Essentially, we need to abandon the idea of solving a ‘niche’ need, redefine our focus and find new ways to champion a different way to eat. We need to go beyond freedom to create something more meaningful and substantial, something with longevity and worth, in the way that eating organic or vegan have seamlessly become for today’s consumers.

We believe that there is a new and exciting opportunity for future brand thinking and innovation: to find new product solutions that stimulate and challenge the assumptions of food culture as we know it. But, it will only be through innovative design thinking that we will see a real difference. A strong design aesthetic and the creation of new ways to express it will help pave the way for future brand and design concepts with impact and influence on the future of food, health, lifestyle and beyond.

About the Author

Tess Pearlfisher_200

Tess Wicksteed is Executive Vice President of Pearlfisher, New York