Driven by ongoing demand for greater transparency, the free-from category is continuing to grow globally and, in addition to the high-profile developments in areas such as lactose-, dairy- and gluten-free foods and drinks, there has also been a marked upturn in interest in GMO-free or non-GMO products, according to a report from Innova Market Insights.
New product launches featuring GMO-free claims and labeling remain relatively limited on a global scale. More than 13 percent of launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in the 12 months ended June 2015 were marketed on an additive-free or preservative-free platform, while 7.8 percent were marketed as organic and 6.3 percent as natural. At the same time just 4 percent used GMO-free labeling, although this was a significant rise year-on-year, driven mainly by rising levels of interest in the United States. Over the 12-month period, the United States accounted for 43 percent of global launches using GMO-free claims, moving ahead of the European Union on 39 percent, despite the much larger number of countries involved in the latter region.
Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, said the use of genetic modification has become an issue in recent years in the United States in particular, where there has traditionally been only limited consumer resistance to GM foods. “While GM foods have to be labeled in other parts of the world, including the EU," she said, “this has not been the case in the U.S. to date. After rising levels of concern, the growing use of GMO-free labeling and the development of schemes such as Non-GMO Project Verification, some U.S. states started to discuss introducing their own legislation and there is currently also a move for USDA to create its own voluntary non-GMO certification program"
In terms of numbers of global GMO-free introductions, bakery products and snacks accounted for 12 percent and 11 percent, respectively, reflecting the significance of GM ingredients in sectors using high levels of cereals for food. Cereals led in terms of share, with more than 13 percent of launches of breakfast cereals and cereal bars featuring this type of labeling, compared with 7.4 percent for snacks and 4.6 percent for bakery products.
There’s also been strong interest in non-GMO labeling in the dairy industry, where a natural image has traditionally been important and there is already ongoing activity in organic and pasture milks. There is a strong link between organic and GMO-free certification, with many products using both types of positioning. In the United States, these include leading organic dairy producers such as Stonyfield Farm and Organic Valley, as well as non-dairy drink lines such as blue Diamond’s Almond Breeze and White Wave’s Silk. The leading U.S. Greek yogurt brand, Chobani, is also certified non-GMO.
Dairy products have also been one of the key areas for non-GMO or GMO-free labeling in Europe, where, despite compulsory EU regulations on labeling of genetically modified foods having been in force since the 1990s, there has still been ongoing pressure to verify and more easily identify non-GMO options. This has been led by countries such as Germany and Austria. Dairy launches using a GMO-free positioning accounted for nearly 28 percent of Austrian dairy introductions in the 12 months to the end of June 2015. This compared with 3.2 percent in the European Union as a whole, just more than 5 percent globally and just under 10 percent in the United States.