Health store chain Holland & Barrett has today opened the country’s first-ever free-from concept store under the brand Holland & Barrett More. 

The move confirms its aim to become the UK’s largest free-from retailer, as the store in Chester will sell the largest range of free-from food available in the UK.

One thousand products are already available online and through the high street store and the list will grow to more than 3,000 by the end of the year. All the main free-from categories defined in allergen legislation will be covered, from gluten and dairy to nuts, egg and fish.

The Chester store is the first of more than 50 stores planned over the next two years. All free-from products will be available for home delivery from the Holland & Barrett website, where goods can be searched by allergen as well as food category.

Peter Aldis, chief executive of NBTY Europe, owner of Holland & Barrett, said: “The speed of growth of free-from has seen it transform from what was once regarded as a nutritional niche into a mainstream shopping option.

"YouGov data on where people buy free-from products shows we already do well in this market, scoring significantly ahead of Boots and very close to Waitrose and Morrisons.

"We already have more high street stores than many of the big supermarkets, and the 50 new concept stores we have planned for the next two years will help ensure we can deliver against our ambition to become the largest free-from retailer in the UK.”

Free-from market

According to Mintel, the UK free-from category continues to show strong growth, with market values doubling from 2009 to reach £365m in 2014, and forecast to grow by a further 50% by 2019 (to £550m). One in 10 new food products launched in 2014 were gluten-free, nearly double the number of two years ago.

Aldis added: “With our heritage and market positioning, this is a natural territory for Holland & Barrett to lead. We are seeing a significant change in consumer trends in this market alongside an explosion of new free-from products, with many of those on our shelves being produced by small British businesses.”

A 2014 YouGov survey found that one in five people in the UK consider themselves to have a food allergy or intolerance, up 5% since a previous survey in 2011 and 15% of UK households are avoiding gluten and wheat.