As consumers become interested in healthy food, alternative diets are becoming more popular. No other segment captures this trend like the exploding sector of gluten-free foods. Since 2011, the gluten-free market has grown by double digits year after year. Industry experts at Mintel International predict that the gluten free market will growth to $15.6 billion by 2016. Even pizza chains are getting into the game. In January, Pizza Hut announced that they would become the first major pizza chain to sell pies that are certified gluten free.
Who are gluten-free consumers?
More and more consumers are choosing to pursue a gluten-free diet, but, the reasons are not always gluten sensitivities. A survey by Mintel International, for instance, found that 27% of people who were eliminating gluten from their diets were doing so to aid weight loss. A few of the things we know about who eats gluten-free and why:
- A survey by the NPD group found that 30% of American adults say that they want to eat less gluten or remove it from their diets altogether.
- One in four respondents to a recent survey between the ages of 18 and 24 eat gluten-free.
- As many as 6% of US consumers may have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
- Sixty-five percent of people who avoid gluten do so because they feel they are healthierthan food that are not gluten-free.
- Twenty-one percent of gluten-free buyers choose them because they are generally low in carbohydrates.
- Fifteen percent say that they buy them because there is someone in their household who is sensitive to wheat or gluten.
- Seven percent buy gluten-free because a family member has celiac disease.
How to satisfy gluten-free demand
To satisfy the demand, you first need to understand Gluten: It is a protein in wheat and other grains that causes digestive issues in people who have celiac disease and non-celiac gluten intolerance. As of 2013, experts at the FDA define gluten-free foods as those who meet all of the following requirements:
- contains no wheat, barley or rye.
- contains no ingredients that are derived from those grains and hasn’t been processed to remove all gluten.
- contains more than 20 parts gluten per million.
The most popular gluten-free products are, predictably, baked goods. Items that include cookies, bread, muffins and cakes make up 23.9% of the gluten-free market. Dairy and dairy alternatives make up the next largest segment, with 21.3% of sales. The prepared foods segment is smaller but growing. This sector increased in size by 48.7% between 2011 and 2013 and is expected to continue to grow.
When marketing gluten-free products, it’s important to remember the audience and approach consumers correctly. About two-thirds of consumers say that manufacturers should not label a product gluten-free if it never contained gluten in the first place. Half of consumers say that they would be more likely to buy gluten-free products if those products were displayed in a dedicated aisle. And, a whopping 86% say that in-store items such as tags, lists of products and dedicated aisles influence their decisions.
The gluten-free market has proven to be more than just a passing fad. To find where your business can fit into this trend, observe gluten-free definitions carefully, create palatable products and meet label-conscious customers on their own terms as they seek out products for better health.