Almost a quarter of the new food and drink products launched this year have claimed to be “additive- and preservative-free”, according to research from Mintel.

The analysts said 24% of the products launched this year claim to contain no additives or preservatives.

“Manufacturers are tapping into the nation’s growing desire for a more natural lifestyle, as consumers take a greater interest in what really goes into their food,” said David Jago, director of Mintel GNPD Custom Solutions.

“The assumption is that it is better for you to avoid additives and preservatives, as many Brits are concerned about the effect they may have on their health.”

Mintel said that “additive- and preservative-free” had become the number one health claim in the UK food and drinks market, overtaking “low fat” for the first time.

The possible link between additives in food and unwanted health effects has again entered the spotlight in the UK in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the UK’s Southampton University published a study that claimed to show a link between certain artificial food additives and colourings and hyperactivity in children.

Last week, Mars stepped up its efforts to remove artificial colours from its confectionery products. The Starburst brand will be free from all artificial colours by the end of year. The company said it would also take steps to remove certain artificial colours from its Skittles brand by the end of the year.