According to the “Gluten-free foods in the US, fifth edition” put out by packaged facts, consumers not needing to be on a gluten-free diet are helping (those that do) to drive the gluten-free marketplace and show no signs of slowing in the near future.
Over a five-year period that ended in 2014, gluten-free product sales that are in traditionally grain-based categories had an annual growth rate of 34%. That’s huge. The biggest gains were segments containing cold cereal, baking mixes, pasta, and frozen bread or dough.
There apparently has been a slight lag in sales among those who are disenchanted with the outcome and benefits of the specialty diet, although to be fair those are generally the result of misconceptions about processed gluten-free foods being healthier, which they aren’t necessarily.
Driving the increased sales of gluten-free products are also an escalating prevalence of health problems associated with diet; more and better-quality gluten-free food products and their increasing availability in mainstream retail channels; and favorable rulings on the definition of “gluten-free” by the FDA. The improvement of labeling has increased trust for the consumer who does have to follow a legit and strict gluten-free diet, and that helps drive demand even further.
Products carrying the gluten-free label accounted for about one in ten global food and drink product launches equaling about 18% of the market. By 2013 it’s estimated that the industry had hit the $10.5 billion dollar range according to Mintel. By 2016 it expects the market could reach $15.6 billion.
So what percentage of households consumes gluten-free products? About 24% says Mintel research. That’s a lot of the population who currently eats, or has someone in the family who eats, gluten-free products.
Another aspect driving growth is the change in perception of these foods being bland, tasteless, cardboard-like substitutes for regular gluten containing products. Apparently 75% of those consumers who don’t have celiac disease or sensitivity consume these products believing that they are a healthier alternative, which may not be the case.
Still these consumers are driving the trends and they don’t appear to be abating any time soon. Interestingly, in spite of the increase in demand for these products, the leadership arena continues to be driven by specialty marketers. Most of those compete in the salty snacks market. However, the big players in the food industry are increasing their presence more and more and competing for their slice of a very big pie!