Holland & Barrett launches first free from concept store today and plans 50 more

Holland & Barrett has today confirmed its aim to become the UK’s largest free from retailer with its launch of the largest Free From food range available in the UK and the country’s first ever free from concept store – branded Holland & Barrett More.

Catering for the needs of the estimated 10m of food allergy and intolerance sufferers in Britain, Holland & Barrett’s new online and high street proposition will list 1,000 free from products at launch but will have more than 3,000 products available by the end of this year, covering all of the main Free From categories defined in legislation, from gluten and dairy free through to nut, egg and fish allergies.

The new concept store opens today in Chester and will be the first of 50 new Holland & Barrett More stores planned for the next two years. All free from products will be available for home delivery nationwide from the Holland & Barrett website, where users will be able to search, filter and order by allergen as well as food category.

Peter Aldis, NBTY Europe CEO, said: “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 Mintel, the UK free from category continues to show impressive growth, with market values doubling from 2009 to reach £365m in 2014, and forecast to grow by a further 50% by 2019 (to £550m). One in 10 new food products launched in 2104 were gluten-free, nearly double what it was two years ago.

Aldis said: “With our heritage and market positioning, this is a natural territory for Holland & Barrett to lead. We are seeing a significant change in consumer trends in this market alongside an explosion of new free from products, with many of those on our shelves being produced by small British businesses.”

A 2014 You Gov survey found that 1 in 5 people in the UK consider themselves to have a food allergy or intolerance, up 5% since a previous survey in 2011.  Some 15% of UK households are avoiding gluten and wheat – more than half on grounds of healthier choice[3]. Holland & Barrett’s new Free From proposition will help those with food allergies access in one place the widest choice of Free From products at competitive prices, with in-store and home delivery options making their shopping experience considerably easier.

Personal journey:

One of the drivers for the new proposition was the personal experience of Aldis and fellow board director Emma Cockerill, free from project lead and director of sales and procurement. Both have young children with food allergies. Aldis has learned how to cope with a young son with a nut allergy, and Cockerill discovered her young daughter was allergic to dairy, soya and nut allergies when she went into an anaphylactic shock at just a few months old. This experience also promptedHolland & Barrett to partner with national charity Allergy UK, which campaigns to ensure allergy is not a forgotten disease, and provides advice, information and support to people with allergies and food intolerance.

Lindsey McManus, deputy CEO of Allergy UK, said: “Food allergy and intolerance has a massive impact on people’s lives. Our genetics, our living environment, diets and eating habits all play a part in why we may react to some foods, however there is no one conclusive answer. We are seeing new research into food allergy emerging all the time, and partnerships like this one with Holland & Barrett represent a dedication to understanding more about food allergy and intolerance and how we can help the people that currently suffer from it.”

Cockerill said: “The free from launch is incredibly important to me personally but also to Holland & Barrett as a health food business. I’ve seen first-hand how serious an allergic reaction can be and I know how difficult it is to cater every day for an allergy diet. Our goal at Holland & Barrett is not only to ensure that everyone around the country has quick and easy access to a wide range of free from food, but as a leading health food retailer, we also see it as our duty to support the allergy and intolerance community and make sure they have access to as much resource as they need.”