Posted: 23/04/2015

Holland & Barrett aims for dominance in fast-growing free-from market

Holland & Barrett More store Chester
The new Holland & Barrett More store in Chester is the first in a string of free-from focused shops

Health products specialist Holland & Barrett has opened the first of several dozen “new concept” stores majoring on gluten-free and other health foods, in a move to become the UK’s biggest free-from retailer.

The new Holland & Barrett More store in Chester, which opens today (April 23), carries more than 700 free-from products.

Around 50 More stores are set to open over the next two years and, together with its online offer, Holland & Barrett says it will have over 3,000 free-from lines available by the end of 2015.

With an estimated 10 million Brits suffering from food allergies or intolerances, free-from has been a valuable growth category for independent delis and farm shops as well as the major multiples.

Even consumers without specific health issues are buying into the sector, with YouGov research showing 15% of households avoiding gluten and wheat.

At Garsons Farm Shop in Esher, Surrey – FFD’s Deli of the Month in April – store manager Nigel Chandler said: “Gluten-free and sugar-free are two trends we are pushing. People think gluten-free is more healthy, and we’re not going to say they are wrong – these are generally premium products.”

Peter Aldis, CEO of NBTY Europe, which owns Holland & Barrett, said the chain’s heritage and market positioning meant free-from was “a natural territory” for it to lead.

“The speed of growth of free-from has seen it transform from what was once regarded as a nutritional niche into a mainstream shopping option.

“You Gov data on where people buy free-from products shows we already do well in this market, scoring significantly ahead of Boots and very close to Waitrose and Morrisons.

“We already have more high street stores than many of the big supermarkets, and the 50 new concept stores we have planned for the next two years will help ensure we can deliver against our ambition to become the largest free-from retailer in the UK.”

According to researcher Mintel, one in 10 new food products launched in 2104 were gluten-free, nearly double the rate of development two years ago.

Aldis said Holland & Barrett was seeing “an explosion of new free-from products, with many of those on our shelves being produced by small British businesses”.

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