Retail Dietitians Can Influence Massive Demand for Free From Foods

Retail Dietitians Can Influence Massive Demand for Free From Foods

April 28, 2021
Al Heller
Business SkillsTrends

By Al Heller, Contributing Editor,

Retail dietitians see streams of customers seeking allergen-free food choices in the supermarket, but may not realize the full extent of demand for these products, or the impact their professional counsel could have on the store’s business and health destination image.

Eye-opening Nielsen data should convince retail dietitians to emphasize ‘free from’ choices when they consult, help develop educational and merchandising programs, and message via the web and in-store signage.  Across the store, the two leading ‘free from’ food segments – nut-free and sesame-free – each grew sales more than 14% in 2020 to account for an immense combined $495 billion in dollar sales in all U.S. outlets.

Refrigerated cases are an emerging hotbed of ‘free from dairy ingredients’ activity. Nielsen told RDBA that dairy-free milk sales shot up 19.8% to $2.26 billion in all outlets during the 52 weeks ended December 5, 2020; dairy-free yogurt sales rose 17.9% to $285 million; dairy-free cheese sales grew 34.1% to $174 million; and dairy-free pizza sales gained 54.1% to $83 million.

Driving these sales are 85 million U.S. shoppers avoiding major food allergens for their households, which include 29 million consumers diagnosed with food allergies, according to a McKinsey study.

“46% of people say claims influence their purchase at shelf.  But you and I as consumers, we pick out products, we turn them over, we want to know more about them especially if it regards an allergen,” said Katherine Allmandinger, manager of strategic insights, Nielsen’s health and wellness practice.

Here are some ways retail dietitians can help shoppers feel more confident in their stores as safe shopping destinations and knowledge centers about the FDA’s Big 8 allergens milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybean:

  • Create blog content that educates about food allergies and gives strategies for staying safe.
  • Help advocate for better food labels that readily show the presence and possible presence of specific allergens in food products (including sesame which could appear as any of 21 different names). Offer petition sign-ups at your website and at your desk in the store.
  • Seek permission to collaborate with store buyer to develop an in-store display or e-commerce bundle of allergen-free foods, highlighting clusters of trustworthy smaller brands specializing in these products.
  • Consider the potential added appeal of third-party allergen-free certifications on food product labels, especially on exclusive higher-margin store brands.