LAS VEGAS — While it may not be as robust as it has been in the past, the global market for gluten-free products will continue to grow through 2020, said Ewa Hudson, global head of health and wellness research for Euromonitor International, Chicago.
“Gluten-free has managed to differentiate as a category in modern retail,” she said Oct. 6 during the SupplySide West conference.
Ms. Hudson said global sales of gluten-free products are currently approximately $3.2 billion. She estimated the sales figure will rise to between $4.3 billion and $4.4 billion by 2020. She added that Euromonitor’s global sales estimate adheres to the market research firm’s definition of gluten-free, which includes only products specifically formulated as an alternative to a traditional product that contains gluten.
“What is very interesting is the majority of sales are coming from developed markets,” Ms. Hudson said. “If you look at soft drinks, for example, 95% of its growth is coming from emerging markets. The situation for packaged foods is similar. Gluten-free is growing in developed markets and relatively unknown in emerging markets.”
She said the target audience for gluten-free products extends beyond those consumers afflicted with Celiac disease. Other consumers interested in the market include those who don’t have Celiac disease, but believe they are sensitive to gluten; those who consider a diet excluding gluten is healthier; and those who believe gluten-free products will help them lose or maintain their weight.
“As such, the audience is growing and people are trying these products,” Ms. Hudson said.
Supporting Euromonitor’s global sales projection are cheaper diagnostic tools that may make it easier to confirm Celiac disease; larger food companies getting involved in the market, which should bring unit prices down; and the development of products featuring plant proteins and ancient grains that are gluten-free, Ms. Hudson said.
“We are seeing some interesting product development efforts in plant protein,” she said. “A product like a veggie and bean bread may have a big future. It is naturally high in protein and a gluten-free alternative.”
Alternative pastas may be another gluten-free option. In Sweden, a company is selling a “pasta” made with chickpeas, according to the Euromonitor analyst.
“The focus is on protein and the product has a natural positioning,” Ms. Hudson said.
There are also threats to market growth, including medical advancements, such as the development of a vaccine that may alleviate symptoms; the fact that many gluten-free products are also high in sugar and fat, ingredients some consumers are trying to avoid; taste and texture issues that remain; and new diets that may push gluten free from the forefront of attention for those consumers who don’t have Celiac disease.