Supermarket shelves are exploding with gluten-free choices. This is in large part due to greater awareness of a gluten-free diet as a result of increasing diagnoses of celiac disease and other gluten sensitivities, as well as the diet’s perceived health benefits. Retailers are using shelf tags to grab consumers’ attention, and it’s getting them to buy these baked foods and snacks.
Recent research from Chicago-based Mintel estimated that the gluten-free food market reached $8.8 billion in 2014, representing an increase of 63% from 2012. Traditional grain-based products including bars, breads, cookies, flour, pasta and snacks are responsible for most of this growth. However, foods with a grain component are quickly becoming part of the mix. This includes breaded frozen foods and heat-and-eat meals.
“Overall, the gluten-free food market continues to thrive off those who must maintain a gluten-free diet for medical reasons, as well as those who perceive gluten-free foods to be healthier or more natural,” said Amanda Topper, food analyst at Mintel. “The category will continue to grow in the near term, especially as Food and Drug Administration regulations make it easier for consumers to purchase gluten-free products and trust the manufacturers who make them.
“Despite strong growth over the past few years, there is still innovation opportunity, especially in food segments that typically contain gluten,” Ms. Topper said. She pointed out that the bread and cereal segments are ripe for gluten-free growth with only 1% of the overall segment currently termed gluten-free.
“Sales are driven by a loyal core of buyers, primarily those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity,” said David Sheluga, director, commercial insights, Ardent Mills, Denver. According to the company’s extensive market research, this core group, representing 2.5% of US households, will remain — due to medical necessity — eating gluten free. “As diagnosis rates continue to improve, the market for gluten-free specialty products will continue to grow,” he said.