Gluten-free products going from niche to mainstream

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 18th March 2009

Adopting a gluten-free diet is becoming an increasingly popular solution to alleviate complications from the numerous medical maladies associated with wheat and gluten consumption, according to a new report from America. As a result, the market for gluten-free food and beverage products grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28% from 2004 to 2008 to finish with almost US$1.6 billion in retail sales last year, according to market research publisher Packaged Facts.

The report, The Gluten-Free Food and Beverage Market: Trends and Developments Worldwide, 2nd Edition, forecasts double-digit growth in the ensuing years due to an overwhelming number of positive factors, the most important of which is the existence of more gluten-free products in stores through both product introduction and the conversion of existing products to gluten-free status. By 2012 the market is expected to reach about US$2.6 billion in sales.

Medical problems associated with gluten include autism, multiple sclerosis (MS), gluten allergy, various types of gluten-sensitivities, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), repetitive strain or stress injury (RSI), and irritated bowel syndrome (IBS). However, the chronic inflammatory disorder of the small intestine known as coeliac disease is the problem most notoriously associated with gluten consumption. The increased diagnosis of coeliac disease has been a catalyst and driving force in the gluten-free food and beverage market, rescuing it from being generally regarded as a mere fad popular within the health conscious populace, according to the report.

“Evidence shows that the patients that comprise the coeliac community are not willing to be passive sufferers. Their passion to live a full life without gluten must be considered one of the most powerful driving forces in the market,” Tatjana Meerman, publisher of Packaged Facts, noted. “The fact that approximately three million Americans suffer from coeliac disease does not mean that only they are buying gluten-free. Those others suffering maladies relieved by going gluten-free and their ensuing mobilisation and activism have focused a great deal of attention on gluten-free eating.”

To meet consumer demand, more than 225 marketers introduced new gluten-free products into the United States alone in 2008. From supermarkets with private-label brands to single product-line specialty marketers, every conceivable type of food and beverage marketer launched new products into the market last year.