Convenience has found its way into the free-from food sector and growth opportunities “abound”, Euromonitor International has claimed in its latest analysis of the category.

According to Euromonitor, the free-from category grew 12.1% from £863.7m to £968.5m last year on 2015 in the UK. Just over 5% of this is sold through convenience, forecourt and independent small grocery stores, indicating the potential for growth.

Ewa Hudson, head of health and wellness at Euromonitor International, said gluten and lactose-free options used to be “the opposite of convenience” before the free-from boom. Consumers were forced to either avoid or prepare almost every meal from scratch, she said.

“A clear statement that combines health, convenience, fashionable packaging and affordable price is the winning strategy behind health and wellness developments.”

Simone Baroke, Euromonitor contributing analyst said convenience had found its way into gluten free, and ready meals were propelling product sales.

“Some consumers are scouring the shelves for gluten-free versions of their favourite comfort foods; others are looking first and foremost for nutrition,” she said. And many wanted both.

“Gluten-free eating has become a mainstream lifestyle choice, and the scope for gluten-free convenience offerings is enormous,” Baroke said.

Dave Brunt, who owns Londis Birches Head, in Stoke, in the West Midlands, said: “A c-store to me is carrying the core lines and not everyone is looking for gluten free.

“I’m not getting enough requests to have a dedicated area of the store, although I’ve got some gluten-free products and we will highlight it.”

Household-name brands are innovating in the free-from sector. C-Store reported earlier this month that Peroni Nastro Azzurro would be launching a gluten-free lager variant from April.