More than a quarter of Americans eat gluten-free foods to ‘help lose weight’

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 16th October 2013

The popularity of gluten-free foods shows no signs of slowing down, with consumers in the US who are not gluten-intolerant also buying wheat-free products, according to new findings from global market research organisation Mintel.

Mintel found that as many as 65 per cent of consumers in the US who eat or used to eat gluten-free foods did so because they think the products are healthier, and 27 per cent eat them because they feel the products aid in weight loss efforts.

“It’s really interesting to see that consumers think gluten-free foods are healthier and can help them lose weight because there’s been no research affirming these beliefs,” said Amanda Topper, Food Analyst at Mintel. “The view that these foods and beverages are healthier than their gluten-containing counterparts is a major driver for the market, as interest expands across both gluten-sensitive and health-conscious consumers,” she said.

Gluten-free market will continue to grow

Mintel estimated that sales in the gluten-free food and beverage market would reach $10.5 billion in 2013. From 2011-13, the market experienced growth of 44 per cent. While the incidence of coeliac disease affects only 1 per cent of the population, Mintel’s research found that there has been a strong interest in gluten-free food and beverages for reasons other than gluten allergy.

Additionally, over a third (36 per cent) of US consumers who eat or used to eat gluten-free foods said they did so for reasons other than sensitivity. Meanwhile, 7 per cent said they eat gluten-free products for inflammation and 4 per cent said they purchase the products to combat depression.

“When looking at the top 10 gluten-free food product claims in Mintel’s Global New Products Database, after gluten-free and low/no/reduced allergen, there are also product claims associated with being natural and free of additives or preservatives,” Ms Topper said. “The positioning of gluten-free products as having multiple health benefits, such as low fat or no animal ingredients, may be leading to consumer perceptions that gluten-free products are healthier than products that contain gluten,” she said.

Mintel’s findings come as the definition of ‘gluten-free’ gains clarity in the US. Australian Food News reported in August 2013 that the US Food and Drug Administration had published a new regulation defining the term ‘gluten-free’ for voluntary food labelling.

‘Gluten-free’ debate in Australia

Meanwhile, in Australia, the debate about the definition of ‘gluten-free’ has heated up in recent times. Australian Food News reported in May 2013 that the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) was proposing that Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) alter the definition of ‘gluten-free’ in Australia to allow a food to contain up to 20 milligrams of gluten per kilogram to still be called ‘gluten-free’. This change would bring Australian regulation of ‘gluten-free’ claims in like with British and European standards.

However, the proposal has met with some criticism. Australian manufacturer of ‘gluten-free’ foods Freedom Foods said in May 2013 that it was opposed to the proposed changes and that ‘gluten-free’ should always mean ‘free from gluten’.

More Americans are going gluten-free to 'help lose weight'