Holland & Barrett to become UK’s largest ‘free from’ retailer as it aims to open 50 new stores

Starting with a new 7,000 sq ft store in Chester that will open today, the new ‘Holland & Barrett More’ concept will see the creation of 50 new stores over the next two years.

With one in five people in the UK currently suffering from a food allergy or intolerance, Holland & Barrett says the new bigger store format will give people with allergies more product choice than what is currently on offer from the supermarkets.

The ‘More’ stores will stock over 3,000 free from products, with all available for online delivery and covering categories including gluten and dairy free through to nut, egg and fish allergies.

Staff, meanwhile, have been re-trained across the estate in order to advise consumers on the health benefits and consequences of a free from diet.

The UK free form category continues to show impressive growth, with market values doubling from 2009 to reach £365m in 2014.

Free form is forecast to grow by a further 50% to become a £550m category by 2019 and due to the trendiness of gluten-free among foodies, Holland & Barrett says it expects many consumers to buy the products despite not having any allergies.

Lysa Hardy, CMO at Holland & Barrett owner NBTY Europe, told Marketing Week: “We’re increasingly trying to bring in the convenience crowd as we think there’s a real appetite for a healthy alternative to what’s on offer at c-stores and this can cater to that. We have a lot of personal experience with free from and felt a moral responsibility.

“Me, my CEO and my buying director all have children with allergies so we know how difficult it can be to track down free from products.”

Hardy said that Holland & Barrett is targeting bigger locations than its typical high street stores, but could also update current sites to include a More section or move existing sites to bigger locations.

Depending on the success, she said that there is the potential to hit 100 locations with More.

Holland & Barrett will up its advertising spend by 20% in 2015, with it beginning to showcase its free from range and new click and collect service – which will go live across the estate in July – on television campaigns over the year. A separate TV campaign promoting the More concept itself is expected to go live in early 2016.

Holland & Barrett will up its chilled and frozen ranges as it aims to become a 'healthy alternative' to convenience stores
Holland & Barrett will up its number of chilled and frozen ranges as it aims to become a ‘healthy alternative’ to convenience stores

Hardy also says the health brand will continue to focus on upping its chilled and frozen product ranges.

Currently, out of 725 Holland & Barrett stores in the UK and Ireland, 496 stock frozen products (so 68 per cent) and 541 stock chilled products (75 per cent).

“We have a category manager in place who is finding new products for our chillers and I want to try to get them in every store,” she adds.

“We are looking to bring in the lunch crowd but also people topping up food throughout the day. We have seen our protein shake unit really take off but also our soups and meatless sausage rolls. Yes, we are a specialist health store and we’re proud of that, but we can really stand out in the convenience space too. “

According to accounts listed on Companies House, Holland & Barrett’s sales for the year ending September 2014 were up by 7.5% to £513 million, with profit up 8% to £130 million.

The results mark a record 24 consecutive quarters of growth, and Hardy says she “fully expects” to hit a 25th.

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