Pubs miss out on free-from food market

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Big pubs are missing out on trade from thousands of potential customers, claims expert
Big pubs are missing out on trade from thousands of potential customers, claims expert

Related tags: Pubs, Coeliac disease

Big pub chains are failing to cater for thousands of UK consumers looking for free-from food options on menus, an expert in the field has claimed.

Pubs are missing out on the 40% of the population that seek either gluten-free, dairy-free or a multitude of other free-from foods when eating out in the UK, according to Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, director of the FreeFrom Awards and editor of the FreeFrom Matters websites.

“Pubs need to get their heads around free-from,” she told the Publican’s Morning Advertiser​. “There are those pubs — the gastropubs — that get it, but others just don’t and they’re missing out on thousands of customers. You have to look too far and too wide to find a pub that has a good range of, if any, free-from options,” she said.

Not  always a medical reason

Not everybody consuming a ‘free-from’ diet did so for medical reasons, as just a small proportion of the population officially has a recognised food allergy. For instance, 2% to 3% of the UK population actually suffers from coeliac disease, which prevents them from eating gluten, she added.

Yet, consuming a free-from diet wasn’t always as a result of a medical condition and most consumers did it because they believed it made them feel better, claimed Berriedale-Johnson.

“We’ve got 40% of people out there who may want to come into your pub to eat, but can’t. It’s not an insignificant figure,” she said. “A lot of free-from people don’t eat out at the pub because they don’t think that pubs understand what they want.”

Almost a third of pubs didn’t offer a gluten-free option, according to recent research carried out by Knorr. Half of those without a gluten-free dish on their menu said a lack of inspiration stopped them from creating one.

Free-from pub set to be launched

However, a chain of pubs serving only free-from and organic food was set to be launched by founder Alex McCallum later this month, according to PMA ​sister title M&C Allegra Report​.

The first McCallum pub, the Black Horse, a Spirit lease in Standlake, Oxfordshire, will open later this month. A second freehold site at the Bell in Hardwick, Buckinghamshire, will open in the middle of next month.

McCallum said: “There are pubs which do the odd gluten-free dish, but generally they adapt their existing menu. We are creating the menus from the bottom up to be free from gluten, dairy, sugar, vegetable oil and unfermented soya. The idea is that anyone should be able to go into the restaurant and choose from the whole menu rather than from one or two things that look vaguely safe for them.”

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