About ten years ago most of us wouldn't have given a thought to what gluten was, let alone be trying to avoid it. But today the market for gluten-free products has soared and just about everything from pizza to ice cream cones is available in a gluten-free version.
Whilst the gluten-free debate continues to rage, with critics claiming that 'free-from' products are entirely unnecessary for most of the population, it's not just gluten that health conscious consumers are side-stepping. Lactose, wheat, soya and egg are all omitable from popular food products and more than half the population – 55.2per cent – are buying these ‘free from’ items, whether we need to or not, according to research by retail analysts Kantar Worldpanel.
Whatever your stance on "free-from" products, it can't be denied that these products are changing the way we eat. Here's our pick of 6 top free-from products that have made eating and drinking more accessible to all.
Non-dairy ice cream
Girls nights in, hot summer days - neither are complete without a dollop of ice cream. But if you're lactose intolerant you'd usually have to steer clear of this tempting treat. Thankfully there are now a wealth of dairy free ice cream alternatives on offer with an array of flavours to boot. Just check the ingredients label for sugar content or any nut allergies as some companies use nuts to achieve a creamy texture.
Gluten free oats
Breakfast choices can be particularly limited if you're gluten-free. While you might not immediately think of oats as being a gluten containing product, they contain a protein called avenin, which is similar to gluten, and so they can often cause similiar digestive issues. With gluten-free oats now available, everyone can harness power of porrdige for breakfast.
Gluten free fish fingers
A brilliant freezer standby, fish fingers are now available as a gluten free-product and taste just as good as their gluten containing counterparts. Combine this with the gluten-free bread options available and you have yourself a mean free-from fish finger sarnie.
Market research firm Mintel has pinpointed gluten-free beer as the next big growth area in the free-from food market. Gluten-free beers tend to use alternative grains and grasses such as millet, rice, corn, buckwheat or sorghum in place of barley and wheat during the brewing process. You can now find them on the shelves of most supermarkets. Bottoms up!
If you're lactose intolerent, paleo or a vegan, cheese is most likely off the menu for you. However, thanks to the introduction of dairy-free cheese, all spreads, mozzarellas and cheddars are now fair game. Free-from wine and cheese party?
Whilst it's great having ready-made free-from products on tap, there are times when you want to get busy in the kitchen and rustle up your own treats. Egg replacement products, gluten and wheat free flours and wheat-free yeasts mean that making your own free-from tasties is a whole lot easier.