Global gluten-free market set to grow

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 13th July 2010

The worldwide market for gluten-free products is set to grow by US$1.2 billion over the next five years, to a total worth of over US$4.3 billion, according to predictions by consumer analyst group Datamonitor.

Research suggests that the Australian gluten-free market will be grow to a total of US$98.6 million – one of the highest rates in the Asia-Pacific region, second only to Korea.

“There is a wider audience for a gluten-free diet, greatly outnumbering those suffering from coeliac disease. Combined with this, the numerous symptoms associated with coeliac disease have increased concern among non-coeliac sufferers, therefore further increasing the available market for gluten-free products,” says Mark Whalley, consumer analyst at Datamonitor.

The gluten-free movement has benefited from the growing number of Australians who are avoiding food and beverages because of allergies or intolerances. Datamonitor research revealed that nearly one-fifth (18%) of Australian consumers avoid certain food or drinks for allergy or intolerance reasons either ‘most of the time’ or ‘all the time’. This raised awareness of intolerances may help to explain the growing market for gluten-free products, despite only 1% of the population suffering from coeliac disease.

However, there is a risk that the gluten-free market will suffer in the same way that low/no-carb products did over the second half of the last decade. With some consumers wrongly self-diagnosing themselves as coeliacs, as well the possibility of gluten-free being a ‘vogue diet’ susceptible to a rapid decline in popularity among non-coeliacs, it is possible that long-term growth will be negatively impacted.

“In fact there are already signs that the gluten-free market may plateau in the future, as the growth we predict over the next five years is somewhat less than what we’ve seen for the last five years,” added Whalley.

“One hurdle brands face is making sure the taste of gluten-free products is appealing.  Manufacturers need to adopt a more holistic approach ensuring they communicate the wider benefits of gluten-free foods rather than relying on what is excluded from the products.”

“Therefore, brands should focus on appealing to a broader audience to strengthen the long term prospects of gluten-free food. However, they cannot lose sight of the fact that core consumers of the products will always be coeliacs, so relying on consumers outside of this demographic in the long-term will prove to be a very risky strategy.”