Free from, at 13% share


Free-from foods are at 13 percent of shelf references. Gluten-free and lactose-free topped the list

Italians’ passion for free-from foods continues to grow. With a slight slowdown in the race over the past year, which still marked a 1.2 percent step forward.

Gluten-free and lactose-free are the two most popularfree-fromclaims among consumers. According to the Immagino Observatory, by GS1 Italy and Nielsen, as many as 13 out of every 100 products sold in the supermarket fall into one of these two categories. (1)

There are more than 4,500 gluten-free and lactose-free foods on the shelf and they are worth a turnover, in the large-scale retail trade (GDO) alone, of around 3 billion euros.

‘Gluten-free’ is the most solid segment in the free-from area. In value terms, it occupies a 12.4 percent share, ten times larger than that of celiac foods certified with the crossed-out ear of corn, the logo of the AIC, Italian Celiac Association. But the latter are growing faster, at a rate of 5.7 percent against 0.2 percent for the others.

In contrast, lactose-free expresses the most dynamic free-from, with 13.8 percent growth in 2016. There is less supply than the gluten free segment, and one out of three times the purchase is promoted.

Middle-income consumers are the largest purchasers of gluten-free and lactose-free products. Households that choose gluten free have children and young people under the age of 17 in them. While in those devoted to the lactose-free offering, the person in charge of shopping is between 35 and 54 years old.

One is left to wonder, in the face of such data, whether the health condition of Italians has deteriorated so rapidly as to have led 13 percent of a population raised on pasta and bread, milk and cheese to develop intolerance in just a few years. (2) Rather, one would say that the visible hand of the market has created false needs, reconfirming Marcuse’s theories. With visible impact on the ‘cash line’ and good peace to the traditional Mediterranean diet.


(1) Overall, the two food categories dedicated to people with food intolerances account for 12.8 percent (13.7 percent by value) of the food supply in supermarkets, excluding water and alcoholic beverages.

(2) Epidemiological data are not so dramatic, celiac disease affects 1% of the population with peaks of 2% in a few regions