Despite their oxymoronic existence, gluten-free foods persist. Sales in this segment grew 17.8% from 2013 to 2016 according to research done by Mintel, though that growth has slowed down from year to year. From 2015 to 2016, these products saw 17.9% growth, which is still worth noticing. Not only are numbers up, but the percentage of people choosing gluten-free also continues to go up. Consumption increased 32% in 2016 as compared with 24% in 2013, according to Mintel.
“The trend for gluten-free products is one we’ve seen grow over the past decade,” said Yanling Yin, senior manager, bakery application, Corbion. “What started out as an industry targeting those with celiac disease and other gluten intolerances has now grown to become a popular lifestyle choice for consumers who don’t necessarily have those types of dietary restrictions but perceive gluten-free foods to be healthier and more premium than traditional applications.”
In the quest to make products that mimic their conventional counterparts, formulators have come a long way. According to Mintel’s “Gluten-Free Foods, U.S.” report, 69% of survey respondents said gluten-free products are higher quality than they used to be. Sixty-eight per cent said they are satisfied with the variety of gluten-free foods available. Formulators see room for improvement, though.
Removing gluten from foods whose very strength comes from the structure of gluten network leaves little for bakers to work with. The challenges hit on every front: taste, texture and shelf life. The gluten-free alternatives bakers produced in the past have struggled to match the nutritional value of traditional baked goods.
“These challenges haven’t changed over the years, but the types of solutions available to address them have,” said Ricardo Rodriguez, marketing manager, confectionery and bakery, Ingredion.