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Free-From Festive Feasts: How Much Will They Set You Back?

Free-From Festive Feasts: How Much Will They Set You Back?

Most of us think of Christmas as a time filled with family, festivities and a full belly.

But people with food allergies may struggle to please their appetite this Christmas, with allergen-free alternatives to festive favourites less available and costing more at the till.

Roughly 2% of adults in the UK live with a food allergy, in addition to 7% of children; although as many as 20% report experiencing reactions to foods which make them believe they have a food hypersensitivity – that’s 2 in 10 people at any festive gathering.

The most common food allergies in the UK are to dairy, eggs and nuts, while many more suffer from gluten intolerance or celiac disease.

Food allergies can be deadly, but also costly – with free-from alternatives to festive favourites around 20% more expensive on average per 100g.

Making allergen-free Christmas food can be done at home, although this isn’t possible for everyone; this means, people living with food allergies are at risk of being left behind this Christmas, due to a lack of choice and higher prices, often driven by constraints in the manufacturing supply chain. 

Quite simply, free-from products are produced in smaller volumes and must be rigorously tested to ensure the allergens aren’t present, which drives up prices for customers at the checkout.

Thankfully, the most popular Christmas dessert in the UK, the mince pie, is the easiest festive favourite to find an allergen-free alternative for. Even so, the availability of these products varies by retailer.

Panettone is the hardest festive food item to find for people with food allergies at big supermarkets, with none sold at Morrisons and all other supermarkets offering only one gluten-free product to ‘choose’ from.

While festive alternatives at supermarkets were found to be less readily available overall for allergy-sufferers, clear food allergen labelling made the available options fairly easy to find. Although, it’s important to remember that ‘free-from’ doesn’t mean free from all allergens, so it’s important to always check the label.

Which festive favourites will set you back the most? 

Food labelling experts at Ashbury collected data from five of the UK’s leading supermarkets, to find out the price difference in allergy-free alternatives and how much they may set you back compared to main range items.

Festive favouriteMain range average price per 100gFree-from average price per 100gPrice difference between main range & free-from
Yule log£1.20£2.8858.33%
Panettone£1.69£2.3227.16%
Advent calendar£3.57£4.7825.31%
Christmas pudding£1.25£1.357.41%
Gingerbread man£1.59£1.590.00%
Mince pies£1.01£1.00-1.00%

While being a traditional holiday dessert for many, yule logs are actually the biggest scrooge for free-from festive snacking, being 16% more expensive per product on average than standard range items while also weighing around 25% less; Considering free-from yule logs are around 58% more expensive per 100g, you’d actually be paying more for less.

Those with free-from advent calendars excited for a chocolatey treat each day should also expect to receive less than you’d find in standard range advent calendars, weighing around 60% less on average and being 25% more expensive per 100g. 

Another internationally known and loved Christmas dessert, the panettone, would set free-from shoppers back 27% more on average per 100g than the main range item. Also weighing in 40% lighter on average, supermarkets could be cutting down on the size of the free-from dessert to keep costs low.

Possibly the most popular dessert to have as a Christmas centrepiece, the Christmas pudding, is also a scrooge for allergy sufferers, costing around 7% more on average than the standard range products.

Keeping up the festive spirit though, mince pies and gingerbread men remain a festive treat to be enjoyed equally and by all, with a 0% to -1% price difference between free-from and standard range products per 100g – with free-from mince pies working out cheaper on average.

For all these festive favourites, food allergen labelling is vital for consumers with an allergy or intolerance to certain ingredients to still have a comfortable Christmas feast.

Allergen labelling information for prepackaged food is a legal requirement for all businesses in the UK, with 14 ingredients now on the list of those that must be emphasised if present in products.

Methodology

Ashbury looked at the number, price and weight of festive favourites sold online at the UK’s leading supermarkets, to understand the difference in availability and price of products for those with food allergies and intolerances.

Data is correct as of December 2023.

Caitlin Stewart, Marketing Manager

My background in Food Science and Marketing means I have a unique combination of commercial creativity and technical food manufacturing experience. My ambition is to bring clarity to the complex world of compliance through the simple and eye-catching communication of Ashbury's services.

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