In the last three years, several supermarket chains have even created a range of own-brand free-from products, as demand has grown.
In Pingo Doce outlets, sales of organic products have risen 180 percent, while those of gluten-free items are up 20 percent and of lactose-free products up 54 percent, according to data provided to Lusa News Agency by the company.
“The increase in demand for this type of products” and efforts to “make them available at very competitive prices contribute to this growth,” the supermarket chain said.
Rival supermarket chain Continente also saw a growth of more than 90 percent overall in gluten and lactose-free products on the one hand and organic products on the other.
“There is currently a focus on these two categories because the market demands it: among consumers who need alternative products (for health reasons such as coeliac disease) and consumers who, without the same degree of need, consider that these products contribute to a healthier lifestyle,” the company told Lusa, adding: “The increase in demand has been very large in recent years.”
While the growth can be seen as a sign that people are becoming more concerned with eating healthily, the head of Portugal’s Order of Nutritionists, Alexandra Bento, warns that there is “much confusion and many false concepts” driving this demand.
According to Bento, seeking “more health to live better” does not entail removing foods or nutrients from food: any decision to eliminate gluten or lactose should be taken in a “conscious and guided way by a nutritionist”, that is, there should be “a clinical reason” to do so.