FN Research recently undertook a project on behalf of the Consumer Council, results of which were featured in a recent BBC NI article.

When the Consumer Council commenced this research, there was no up-to-date or specific data on the prevalence of these conditions in Northern Ireland, and existing UK-wide studies used a Northern Ireland sample which was too small to be truly representative.

FN Research Food intolerance and sensitivities researchThe full report designed by The Consumer Council details the findings of the research carried out by ourselves on behalf of the Consumer Council, between December 2021 and February 2022. The research was conducted to determine the prevalence of food hypersensitivities in Northern Ireland; consumers’ experience of cost and availability of food suitable for their dietary needs, and to discover if any issues had been encountered with availability. The research comprised of a representative household survey; in-depth interviews with consumers who have food hypersensitivities, and other key stakeholders. In addition, a focus group was conducted with consumers without food hypersensitivities who buy free-from products.

At the time of this research being undertaken, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) showed inflation had risen by 9% in the past year, and the basic spend of Northern Ireland’s lowest earning households had risen by 22.7%. Since then, inflation, particularly food inflation, has continued on an upwards trajectory, and food and non-alcoholic beverages rose by 18.4% in the year to May 2023, down from 19.1% in April, and from 19.2% in March, which was the highest annual rate seen for over 45 years.

Now imagine that you or a family member has a food allergy, intolerance, or a medically related special diet (food hypersensitivities), which will affect what you can and can’t buy and eat. The Consumer Council were hearing anecdotally how the cost and availability of a specialist diet (involving free-from products), were negatively impacting some consumers, and worse, was putting the health and well-being of consumers or their family member(s) at risk.

Regarding cost, according to a Safefood report published last year that in Northern Ireland the additional (direct) costs associated with a food allergy for adults were £847 per year, and for parents of children with food allergies, this rose to £1,208 per year. For coeliac disease, these costs were £737 and £1608 respectively, and for those with a food intolerance, costs were £377 for adults and £292 for parents.

FN Research, Food insensitivities and intolerances researchTo find out more, we conducted NI-specific research on behalf of the Consumer Council to determine to what extent consumers who require a special health-related diet are impacted by issues of cost and/or product availability, and to get an indication of the scale of the issue. They were also keen to establish what proportion of Northern Ireland consumers purchase free-from products, and what drives their purchase choices, i.e., a doctor-diagnosed medical condition, self-reported medical condition, health or lifestyle choice, or environmental concerns; and to learn about their shopping experiences.

You can read the full report from the link below

Consumer Council – Food Hypersensitivity PDF FINAL.pdf