Permissible indulgence driving innovation in Free From product development

HMT was very happy to be on the road again and is reporting on the latest insights. This time I must admit that the trip was not long, since this author (Maria speaking today!) is actually based in Barcelona, and the Free From fair took place in the same city from the 7-8th of June. I had the pleasure of attending as a speaker and talked about storytelling strategies for Free From brands and how to engage with consumers. If you missed my presentation but are interested in the topic, drop me a note at, and I am happy to share it with you.

Before the fair and in preparation for it, our team was wondering what drives innovation in Free From product development? We identified 3 categories:

1) Climate anxiety: better for the planet e.g. free from palm oil, free from animal ingredients claims.

2) Functional benefits: better for me e.g. free from sugar, free from artificial colourants/additives claims.

3) Emotional and mental health: better for my mental state, permissible indulgence e.g. guilt-free or free from worries claims

Before visiting the show, I had assumed that I would see and hear a lot about climate anxiety and sustainability, and I expected to find products leading with relevant messages. It was then interesting to see that many products talk about sustainability, but in a way to make consumers feel good about their choices. So, climate-related product messaging was actually there to provide permission to enjoy. To summarise (and end the debate in our office): the Free From category is still very much a food and beverages category, and as such, taste is (and probably will always be) the king. Innovation in Free From products is driven by permissive indulgence. Brands are racing to provide functional, emotional and mental health in a sustainable way to give consumers healthier options, guilt-free options, and sustainable options to ENJOY food.

Some of my personal highlights:

Keto in the spotlight

I was impressed by a new brand from Ibiza, Ketonico, offering a collection of keto staple products covering food, supplements, snacks and beverages which address key health objectives. I tried their coconut wraps, a great alternative to bread and tortillas. I also had a shot of the watermelon collagen water which was very refreshing on a hot Barcelona day, and I also spotted a Keto Nut Butter with salted caramel (which in retrospect I wish I had tried).


I also spotted the Impossible Bakers, which make keto, low carb, sugar-free baking products. Judging by the crowd always at their booth, I think these are well sought after delicacies.

The future is plant-based and organic  

I followed the smell of something good cooking and discovered Happy Guisante (which means pea in Spanish), where Rodrigo was preparing a kebab like meat on the spot. It was a meat alternative based on peas and the texture and taste were amazing.

I also spotted a vegan “butter” block and vegan egg white replacer based on potato and tapioca starch. Of course, there were also vegan cheese brands, with Väcka standing out: a vegan brand which started from a restaurant in Barcelona, tastes great and also contains probiotics.

Väcka vegan cheese

Finally, I was pleasantly surprised to find a vegan “jamon”: Cured ham by Good & Green was a discovery!

Healthy snacking

Healthy snacking couldn’t be missing, with a great offering to support healthier snacking habits. I loved Dr. Karg’s super seed crackers, wholesome ingredients, great taste and crunchy texture.

I was then introduced to “Spoothie”: a smoothie you eat from a bowl with a spoon. This is from a Finnish company who are millers and use the byproducts of milling to create healthy and tasty snacks. “Spoothie” is from buckwheat and contains real berries. Did I add that it tastes great too?


All in all, it was a great fair which made me feel positive about the future of food.

Where you at the show? Did you present an innovation that I missed? Feel free to send it to me and I will be happy to highlight it in our social media.

If you want to know more about trends in the Free From space and how to make them work for your brand, don’t hesitate to reach out and drop me a note at