Transparency in the free-from market

As an individual who follows a gluten free diet due to medical reasons, grocery shopping can be a stressful and sometimes risky affair. Equally the unequivocal rage I feel, when I peruse the free-from aisle and resign myself to paying extortionate prices for a product marketed as free-from, only to discover either:

a) The same product in a different aisle minus the free-from claim with a much lower price ticket 

or equally

b) Reading the ingredients and discovering the product is naturally gluten free – making the free-from claim splashed across the packaging redundant and the hiked up price infuriating with no substitute available

Labelling laws around gluten free products are quite stringent and rightfully so, for those of us who have to eat the products, false claims or not adhering to the law can result in serious health implications.

In short, the term “gluten free” can only be used on foods which contain 20 parts per million (ppm) or less of gluten. You might see this on specialist substitute products like breads, flour and crackers, which may contain gluten free wheat starch, as well as processed foods made from naturally gluten free ingredients such as soups, sausages and ready meals. 

Where it becomes frustrating as a shopper is when these naturally gluten free products are branded as gluten free in a feeble attempt to make them appear artificially healthy, despite numerous studies debunking this myth such as this recent study conducted by the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics in the UK.

It therefore comes as a refreshing change to see that Woolworths Australia has launched their own range of health foods; aptly named Macro, which I take as a subtle nod to the art of counting macros which slots in nicely with the healthy eating trend.

Macro    Macro 2    Macro 3

What Woolworths (or Woolies to native speakers) have very successfully done, is make the clear distinction between products which have been altered from their natural state to be safe for the coeliac and gluten free community to eat; and products which have always been safe for them to eat. It’s also worthwhile noting, that the price difference between the gluten free and naturally gluten free products per 100g is minimal.

It’s also a refreshing change to see they’re not flogging unhealthy products to consumers, unjustly marketed as such just to tie in with trends and increase sales.

Their Macro range sports an impressive selection of foods which truly are good for you and just so happen to be safe to eat, if you suffer from an autoimmune disease. It’s healthy foods minus the stress of second guessing if it’s safe for coeliacs to consume.

In essence,  this isn’t simply another marketing ploy. It’s been executed in a clean and understated way by adding value to not only the health community but coleaics and intolerants alike. This in turn instils trust with shoppers and a good grounding for return custom to a trusted, honest and transparent product.

What Woolies have done aligns well with the increasing consumer demand for transparency with products.  Woolworths is a good example of a retailer seizing the opportunity for their Own Label brands to get ahead and compete with national brands.

Josie Burt

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