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Children’s allergen-free market heats up

Canadian brand MadeGood is promoting its granola bars as safe for schools as it looks to target the free-from segment with an offering that is still healthy.

12 July 2019

Scrutiny on food allergens has never been greater in the UK, so it’s a good time for MadeGood to make its debut in the UK. The Canadian brand claims it is the first to offer a totally allergen-free granola snack bar that is safe for consumption in schools.

The bars are freefrom the 14 most common allergens, including gluten, nuts, peanuts, egg, dairy, sesame and soy, with three flavours hitting the shelves in 200 Asda stores this month: mixed berry, chocolate chip, and chocolate and banana. All will come in a six-pack of 24g bars for £2.79.

Currently, MadeGood is the number four granola brand in Canada, according to Andy Van Ham, MD of Riverside International, which is bringing the brand to the UK. Before launching over here, the company conducted consumer research that indicated 80% of UK respondents would buy MadeGood once it became available – a pretty positive start.

But the allergen-free aspect isn’t the only selling point for MadeGood, Van Ham tells Food Spark. The bars are organic, vegan and kosher, and pure sunflower oil is used so that the bars are low in saturated fat and have no trans-fat. They also contain vitamins from six different vegetables, including carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, beets, spinach and shitake mushrooms.”

“Every MadeGood product has these vitamins in a very natural way – containing vitamins A, C, D, E and B6,” explains Van Ham.

“The reason why we add it is there is always a balance when we look at families. It’s a brand for families but it’s not only focused on kids. You can take them to work or eat them before lunch when you are ready to have a quick in between meal snack.

“As a parent, when you give snacks to your kids, there is a balance. Parents want to give children something healthy and the child wants something tasty. With the products we make, on one side it’s very tasty, but on the other side, the allergen-free characteristics, vitamins added in product and being organic means it’s a guilt-free product that people can give to their children.”

The safety aspect for schools is also a winner, says Van Ham, because there is always an underlying concern from parents that their kids may eat something that could cause them harm, either in their own lunchbox or when sharing food with friends.

Allergens on the rise

In the pipeline are plans to bring more products into the UK once the brand is established, reveals Van Ham, both in snacking and other categories.

“We already have in Europe a granola mini – it’s a mini ball-shaped product with the same ingredients as the granola bars,” he explains. “Next to that we have a product called Crispy Squares, comparable to the Kellogg’s Rice Krispies product which is well known in the UK. We have that product in Canada. We launched last year in Canada soft-baked cookies too.”

These products can easily be transplanted into the UK, says Van Ham, although the company will look to developing specific packaging for this market.

A Streetbees survey revealed that the most common foods people in the UK are avoiding are sugar (26%), dairy (19%), gluten (12%) and lactose (11%), although over a third of respondents felt free-from products don’t taste as good as regular products.

MadeGood is also targeting markets like Germany and the Netherlands, but Van Ham adds that there is a distinct advantage in the UK as the category is quite advanced compared to other European markets, with supermarkets providing specific sections and a good range of information on free-from.

In the UK, 97% of households now regularly buy food or drink marketed as being free-from, Kantar found. In fact, take-home sales are up 36%, breaking the £2bn barrier for the first time this year. However, data providers such as Kantar and Nielsen include any products that badge themselves as free-from in their read of the market, so not all are exclusively free-from brands.

Van Ham believes that this category is only going to grow as research shows that allergies are on the rise in adults and children.

“Allergies are already a problem and the allergy problem won’t go away – that’s an increase we will see worldwide,” he says. “The need for free-from products in the UK will also increase. I believe we will see more free-from products and more of an attention on presentation as well as product availability.”

It’s a view shared by other manufacturers too, particularly with an eye on the kids’ free-from market. Danone launched an allergy-free brand called Marty’s last month with chickpea crisps and sorbet, while Hippeas is also tipped to enter the snacking arena.

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