In-flight Catering Industry Aims to Boost Availability of Free-from Products

The World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE) 2017 will see a host of free-from companies exhibiting at the 2017 show, reflecting the increase in demand for these products in onboard catering

WTCE 2017 has experienced a surge in interest from manufacturers of free-from foods, with the travel catering and onboard retail specialising event stating that it will display more free-from products at the upcoming expo than ever before.

This coincides with airline operators being urged to improve their free-from ranges to cater to the demand for these products from travellers with specific dietary requirements.

In the UK alone, one in five people consider themselves to have a food allergy or intolerance, with the number of cases doubling in the past decade. Many also opt for free-from foods as part of their lifestyle choice.

WTCE 2017, which takes place from the 4th until 6th April at the Hamburg Messe in Germany, is expecting one of key areas of interest at the event to be the gluten-free market, which it states is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of approximately 6 per cent between 2015 and 2018. Research from Mintel also shows that free-from sales are forecast to grow 13 per cent and reach £531m this year.

Nikos Loukas, consultant to the airline industry and author of inflightfeed.com, believes that Asian airlines cater to the demand for free-from options most effectively. He said, "Most Asian-based carriers offer an assortment of allergen-free meals and usually offer something that will suit almost any request."

WTCE 2017 is set to expect a host of free-from companies exhibiting, including Lovemore Free From Foods, which produces gluten, wheat and mostly dairy-free biscuits, cookies, cakes, tarts and fruit pies.

The percentage of the company’s airline-based sales is increasing, with now supplying the likes of Gate Gourmet and Vueling Airlines. Julian Cruttenden, key account manager for Welsh Hills Bakery said, “The major retailers are growing at 30 per cent and year-on-year in gluten-free produce. We see snacks, cakes and biscuits as particularly in demand in this sector.

“WTCE is a window to the onboard industry and we have now attended twice. The increased focus on free-from food within the industry and at WTCE makes this an attractive proposition for us and the onboard sector alike.”

Other companies joining the WTCE exhibitor line up for 2017 include BestPartner Food, which supplies allergy-free food with a focus on gluten-free pasta; Dr Schar AG, which offers gluten-free products; and Vidasal AB, which specialises in allergen-free sweets and confectionery.

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