New retail data has revealed that a growing interest in health and fitness is propelling the British public to adjust their shopping baskets. The fastest-growing food product categories in 2016 were ‘free from’ foods and fresh fruit, reflecting a broader surge in ‘wellness’ retail categories.

Nielsen analysed till sales to find that British shoppers this year spent an additional £175 billion on fresh fruit, compared to 2015. In the same period, the growth of free-from food products rocketed to £122 million; a growth of just under 19pc.

The mighty avocado

Avocados were the fruit du jour, with bloggers and celebrity chefs everywhere using them in everything from dips, to breakfasts, to green juices. In the past year, Brits spent an extra £50 million on the health fruit, propelling it to first place in the fastest-growing food or drink product category.

Free-from rockets

At the same time, the ‘free from’ food category grew to £772 million a year, making it a bigger seller than both sparkling wine and instant coffee. This was led by a growing interest in gluten-free foods and awareness of wheat and dairy intolerances.

The biggest selling brand in this category was Alpro, the dairy free alternative. Its annual sales hit an impressive £151.9 million. This was followed by Lactofree milk – the alternative dairy product for the lactose-intolerant. In third position was Nakd, the grain-free range of snack bars worth £36 million.

Only the sparkling wine category saw sales rise by an excess of £100 million this year – with an increase of 15.5pc to £101.9 million.

Mike Watkins, the head of retail insight at Nielsen UK, explained that consumers were growing increasingly interested in the role of health and diet, with 40pc of Britons now actively seeking out food products which omitted certain ingredients. The rapidly growing ‘free from’ category offers alternatives for wheat, dairy and other possible allergens which consumers are avoiding for allergy and health reasons.

As for what will be the big food sellers of 2017? The jury is still out, although hot contenders are fresh turmeric root; poke – a Hawaiian version of sushi; kombucha, and Japanese fermented foods. It certainly looks likely that the power of wellness bloggers and celebrity chefs will still have a huge effect on what British consumers place into their food shopping baskets, but there are bound to be a few surprises ahead too!

Shopping trolleys by Rd. Vortex licensed under Creative commons 4