The market for special foods has become one of the fastest growing in the UK as so many people now have a food intolerance or allergy, according to Tesco.
Up to 25 million people, almost half the UK population, could suffer from food intolerance, according to the charity Allergy UK.
The main intolerances are gluten, wheat and dairy products.
As a result the free-from food market has grown by 15% in the last year to be worth £238m, says independent retail analyst Kantar Worldpanel.
The greatest demand is for dairy-free foods and Tesco will this week become the first UK retailer to offer a chilled range including soya milks, spreads, yogurt and desserts.
Tesco dairy customer manager Paul Duszynski said:
“Just 10 years ago if you suffered from a food allergy you would have to go out of your way to specialist health shops in order to find dairy, wheat or gluten-free foods.
“There weren’t many from which to choose, and they often tasted quite bland.
“Tesco was the first UK retailer to launch a free-from brand back in 2003 and we’re proud that we’re still leading the way by introducing new products for our customers.
“People who used to suffer the symptoms of intolerance or allergy in silence can now easily find high quality wheat, gluten and dairy free products when they do their weekly shop.”
With the launch of the new chilled dairy-free products there will now be more than 200 lines in the Tesco free-from range.
Included in the new chilled range will be six yogurts; seven desserts; seven milk alternatives; six dairy cheese alternatives and two dairy-free spreads.
Not only is every product dairy-free but also free from gluten, wheat and egg which makes them suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Lindsey McManus, deputy chief executive at Allergy UK, the country’s leading charity dealing with allergies, said:
“Often it is the simple everyday foods that sufferers are looking for.
“We are seeing an increased choice and a wider variety of foods in store specifically for those with food allergies and intolerances.
“Foods that can be picked up with the weekly shop are making, what is a difficult job for food allergy and intolerance sufferers, much easier.”