Stores need to stock ‘free from’ ranges to boost sales and drive customer loyalty, say retailers including a shop owner whose gluten-free food to go brings in nearly £4,000 weekly turnover.
Abdul Arain, of Al Amin Stores in Cambridge, has offered gluten-free and vegan friendly food to go made in-store for 15 years. It now accounts for 20% of his £1m annual turnover.
“It all started from our desire to satisfy a bigger market,” said Mr Arain. He also has an extensive range of wheat alternative ingredients for cooking and is often asked for advice by his customers on how to adjust their diet.
“We’ve become a destination. We have a lot of people come in to us because they know other shops won’t have the same kind of choice,” he said. “There is a huge opportunity there.”
Mr Arain said he keeps up-to-date on the latest trends by reading trade magazines and attending organic and specialist food exhibitions, both in the UK and throughout Europe.
Sid Sidhu, of Sukhi’s Simply Fresh in Kenilworth, also offers an extensive range of alternative products. “Alternative food products have grown and grown,” said Mr Sidhu.
“Nowadays customers are expecting the products to be more widely available.”
Mr Sidhu stocks Warburton’s gluten-free, as well as Biona products and, more recently, Gullon.
He also offers egg-free mayonnaise, a number of milk alternatives and a vast range of sugar-free items.
Mr Sidhu has seen a 26% sales uplift in his gluten-free sector, milk alternative sales have grown by a third and sugar-free soft drinks are over-taking the full sugar versions to the point he has stopped stocking some.
“Retailers really need to look at their ranges and experiment with what they have on offer,” he said.