Gluten-free: A Fad or Here to Stay

Nearly half of Americans consider gluten-free diets to be a fad, but 67% more consumers are eating gluten-free foods than two years ago, according to research from Mintel. Twenty-five per cent of consumers said they consume gluten-free foods.

There are skeptics but they have not hindered sales of gluten-free foods. The category has grown 136% from 2013 to 2015, reaching estimated sales of $11.6 billion in 2015. Gluten-free food sales grew to 6.5% of total food sales in 2015 from 2.8% in 2013.

Those gravitating toward gluten-free foods are not all gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive. Mintel’s research showed that consumers perceive foods with any free-from claim to be healthier and less processed. Thirty-seven per cent of consumers said they eat gluten-free foods because they believe it is better for their overall health, while 16% claimed they do so because “gluten is bad for you.” Eleven per cent consume gluten-free products because a health care professional suggested they eliminate gluten from their diets.

Says Amanda Topper, senior food analyst at Mintel. “Large and small manufacturers are entering the gluten-free category, increasing the availability, quality and variety of gluten-free foods…Americans have come to expect brands and products to be transparent and trust that the items they purchase are as advertised.”

Restaurants are catering to the gluten-free consumer as well. According to Mintel Menu Insights, gluten-free as an ingredient claim on menus grew 127% in the past three years and is now the top nutritional ingredient claim. Ten per cent of U.S. restaurants now feature a gluten-free menu, appealing to the 22% of gluten-free food consumers who are more likely to visit restaurants offering a specific gluten-free menu. The number of items on those menus grew 9% from 2012 to 2015, with gluten-free as a dish claim growing by 24% over the same period, making gluten-free the top menu item claim.
“While finding gluten-free foods away from home can prove difficult for gluten-free food consumers, there has been growth in gluten-free restaurant options as gluten-free diets have become more popular,” Ms. Topper said. “In the past, it may not have been feasible for celiacs and gluten-free food consumers overall to find these foods at restaurants. Moving forward, there should be more expansive gluten-free menu offerings as the food service industry competes with retail for the rising number of gluten-free Americans.”

What does this mean for restaurants in the Caribbean and Leeward Islands, gluten-free does not appear to be going away any time soon.  Your customers, coming from the USA, Europe and elsewhere have gluten-free options at home so they expect it when they are on vacation.  And the locals, some becoming more health conscience, want gluten-free retail options in their homes.  To learn more about the gluten-free products offered by Merchants Market, please contact your Merchants Market sales rep.

Source: Food Business News; Dec 8 2015

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