Marketing students and The Black Farmer to research gluten-free lifestyle

The Black Farmer

12 May 2015

Undergraduate marketing students are to work with a gluten-free food producer to find out why people choose such products as a lifestyle choice.

According to Coeliac UK one in 100 people in the UK has coeliac disease and must follow a gluten-free diet. Yet the stats reveal that more than 12 million people in the UK – double the number of diagnosed coeliacs - are following a gluten-free lifestyle by choice.

The Black Farmer, a company which produces gluten-free foods and campaigns to raise awareness of coeliac disease, wants to understand why.  In its quest to know more, The Black Farmer is collaborating with BSc Marketing students from LUMS to discover the motivations behind this lifestyle choice.

“It is so exciting to be working with a group of students from Lancaster University on this project, which in itself is fascinating," said Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones aka The Black Farmer.

“They have a fresh approach and are as enthusiastic as I am to find out more. I’m sure they will come up with some interesting and revealing findings.”

According to Kantar Worldpanel, "more than half the population is now buying Free-From, possibly reflecting increased ranges and innovation. Existing shoppers are also choosing to buy Free-From more frequently, pushing up volume per purchaser."

Worth just £135m five years ago, the Free-From market is now worth £355m and growing at 19.9% year-on-year. Mintel forecasts that it will reach £540m by 2018.

“I think it is a staggering statistic that many millions of people are following a gluten-free diet as a lifestyle choice”, said Wilfred.

“But we don’t really understand the reason why. Is it for health benefits? To lose weight? A fad? Celebrity-led? Or simply that if one member of the family needs to follow a gluten-free diet, then the rest of the family follows suit.

"And is it these people who are fuelling the massive growth in the Free-From grocery market which has doubled in value in the last five years?”

Helen Meek, from LUMS Marketing department, said: “It is really interesting that so many people are choosing gluten-free diets as a lifestyle choice. Our marketing students will investigate the motivations behind these choices so we can gain a better understanding of these consumers’ behaviour and also provide recommendations to The Black Farmer.

“This research project is also a fantastic practical learning experience for our students that will help to equip them with industry-relevant skills when they enter the workforce.”

Lancaster University welcomes, and actively seeks, opportunities for its students to work on defined projects that bring benefits to business and enhanced learning experiences that boost the employability of its students. 

To find out more on how your business could work with LUMS students, go to the Student Consulting Projects page.


The Black Farmer photo,  copyright Joanna Ward, Wardour.