When asked the reasons they currently eat or used to eat gluten-free versions of foods, most consumers cite reasons unrelated to a diagnosis of celiac disease by a doctor. Some 82% of consumers who eat gluten-free foods, or used to eat them, have not been diagnosed, including 44% who eat these foods for reasons other than gluten intolerance or sensitivity, according to Mintel data. More than one quarter of 18-24s (27%) who eat or used to eat gluten-free foods do so because they are or were testing to see if they are gluten intolerant or sensitive.

Nearly two in five of those who eat or used to eat gluten-free foods (38%) do so because they believe it’s better for their overall health.

This percentage is even higher among those who have not been diagnosed with celiac disease and are eating gluten-free foods for reasons other than intolerance or sensitivity (45%). Further, one quarter (25%) eat gluten-free foods for weight loss, despite a lack of proof that a gluten-free diet contributes directly to weight loss. This perception may be associated with limiting carbohydrate intake, rather than removing gluten from one’s diet. However, there has been no proven benefit to adopting a gluten-free diet, aside from those who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

As interest in gluten-free foods grows among a wider audience, manufacturers will continue offering either gluten-free alternatives or existing products with a gluten-free label, which some consumers specifically look for. Many consumers continue to perceive a gluten-free diet as healthier and helpful for weight loss, despite evidence as such. It is these consumers, not those who have to eat a gluten-free diet for medical reasons, who are driving market growth.

Ninety percent of gluten-free users are happy with the gluten-free foods available at their local store. This high level of satisfaction can be attributed to the increase in variety, retail availability, and overall quality as interest in gluten-free foods grows. The quality of gluten-free foods in particular has increased over time as manufacturers improve the taste, texture, and ingredients in these products. Many consumers recognize this shift in quality and are willing to pay more for gluten-free products.

There is still a need for gluten-free food innovation, especially within categories that typically contain gluten, including bread, pasta, pizza, snacks, and desserts. As the quality of gluten-free products increases, gluten-free alternatives of these items can appeal to a wide audience of those who need to maintain a gluten-free diet, and those who choose to.

Amanda Topper is an analyst specializing in the food industry. She is responsible for writing monthly analysis reports providing strategic insight and consultancy across several categories from gluten-free foods and cheese to cereal and snacks.

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