The Gluten-Free Food and Beverage Boom

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The Gluten-Free Food and Beverage Boom

“Gluten-free” was one of the hottest buzzwords at the recent Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, Calif., where James Mellgren, senior editor for our sister publication The Gourmet Retailer, discovered a slew of gluten-free products — from fun pasta for kids to superfood energy bars.

“Of all the trends in evidence at the recent Natural Products Expo West — including a proliferation of functional beverages [m] none was more pervasive than the presence of gluten-free foods, a category that was virtually unheard of a few years ago,” said Mellgren, who saw signage advertising gluten-free products at booths throughout the show. Products ran the gamut from prepared/heat-and-serve foods to baking mixes, ready-to-eat snacks, baked goods and beverages. “The category has absolutely exploded, making this the most significant product trend since the low-carb craze of a few years ago, except this time, it’s based on real medical conditions rather than quick weight-loss plans,” he noted.

New Report From Packaged Facts Sizes up Gluten-Free Market
According to a new report — “The Gluten-Free Food and Beverage Market: Trends and Developments Worldwide, 2nd Edition” — from market research publisher Packaged Facts, the gluten-free trend is here to stay. Packaged Facts notes that the market for gluten-free food and beverage products grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28 percent from 2004 to 2008, to finish with almost $1.6 billion in retail sales last year.

Packaged Facts projects that in the coming years, we’ll see double-digit growth in this category due to many factors, the most important of which is the existence of more gluten-free products in the market through both product introduction and the conversion of existing products to gluten-free status. By 2012, the market is expected to reach about $2.6 billion in sales.

Medical problems associated with gluten include autism, multiple sclerosis (MS), gluten allergy, various types of gluten-sensitivities, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), repetitive strain or stress injury (RSI), and irritated bowel syndrome (IBS). However, the chronic inflammatory disorder of the small intestine known as celiac disease is the problem most notoriously associated with gluten consumption.

Approximately one in 133 people have celiac disease, but only about 3 percent of them have been diagnosed with the disease, according to the Celiac Sprue Association (CSA), which says that amounts to about 2.1 million people in the United States who remain undiagnosed. In people with celiac disease, eating certain types of protein, called gluten, sets off an autoimmune response that causes damage to the small intestine, which in turn affects the ability of the small intestine to absorb the nutrients found in food.

The increased diagnosis of celiac disease has been a catalyst and driving force in the gluten-free food and beverage market, notes Packaged Facts. “Evidence shows that the patients that comprise the celiac community are not willing to be passive sufferers,” says Tatjana Meerman, publisher of Packaged Facts. “Their passion to live a full life without gluten must be considered one of the most powerful driving forces in the market. The fact that approximately three million Americans suffer from celiac disease does not mean that only they are buying gluten-free. Those others suffering maladies relieved by going gluten-free and their ensuing mobilization and activism have focused a great deal of attention on gluten-free eating.”

To meet consumer demand, more than 225 marketers introduced new gluten-free products into the United States in 2008, according to Packaged Facts. From supermarkets with private-label brands to single-product-line specialty marketers, every conceivable type of food and beverage marketer in the United States introduced new products into the market last year.

“The Gluten-Free Food and Beverage Market: Trends and Developments
Worldwide, 2nd Edition” from Packaged Facts contains comprehensive data on the U.S. market for gluten-free foods and beverages, including historical (2004-2008) and forecast (2009-2012) retail sales data. The report discusses key trends affecting marketers, retailers and consumer demographics. In addition, the report profiles a broad spectrum of marketers, spotlights international activity, and examines the broad spectrum of complaints that define consumer segments. For more information visit,