Gluten Free foods are the fastest growing food category, see growth forecasts up to $2.6B in the US
The gluten free industry is a rarity amongst economic markets. While previous Gluten Free Pages analysis has shown that both the US and Australia have a strong demand on-line for gf products, very little hard research exists in the public domain. While detailed actual sales reports are limited – those that exist are summarized here. And they are all in general agreement that the physical demand for GF products is growing very fast.
In short, a Nielson Co. report reveals that revenues from items labelled gluten-free have soared almost 20 percent in the past year (2008) to $1.7 billion from $1.4 billion in May 2007. Sales have increased 74 percent compared with 2004. Some items, like gluten-free gum and pet food, only entered the market in 2008." ref 1
Another independent report provides similar growth projections. "The Gluten-Free Food and Beverage Market: Trends and Developments Worldwide, 2nd Edition" - from market research publisher Packaged Facts, this 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." Ref 2
The ‘Packaged Facts' company forecasts that, in the coming years, they will 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. To meet consumer demand, more than 225 marketers introduced new gluten-free products into the United States in 2008. Ref 2
According to a March 2007 survey by the market research company Mintel, 8% of the U.S. population look for gluten-free products when they shop. Nielsen Co., which tracks gluten-free food in U.S. grocery, drug and mass merchandiser stores (excluding Wal-Mart), reports that the gluten-free sector increased 20% in the 12-month period ending June 14 (2007), to $1.75 billion from $1.46 billion a year ago. Ref 3
A quick calculation suggests that an increase of 74% over three years is an average of 25% annual growth from 2004 to 2007. Interestingly, online demand for gluten free searches as analysed in another Gluten Free Pages article, shows that for five years leading up to 2009 that the US e-demand market grew annually at 42% in the US and 10% in Australia. That suggests, that growth rate of people searching online is almost double that of the growth of their actual purchases.
One reason given for the dramatic increase in gf consumption (above and beyond diagnosis levels) is that "the number of people eating gluten-free diets may be larger than the number of Celiac sufferers. Because of the intensity of the intolerance, separate ovens, toasters and other appliances can be needed to reduce contamination. So, many families of sufferers lead gluten-less lives as well." Ref 1
Regarding the price of gluten free, one article considers that being gluten free could in fact eventually be cheaper due to the exclusion of wheat and gluten grains from the diet. It points to "The United States Department of Agriculture reported that the April 2008 average price of U.S. wheat was $371 per metric ton, double the $180 per metric ton average wheat price in April 2007." (Ref 1) However a Gluten Free Pages report provides an opposite forecast and many good reasons why Gluten free products are likely to remain high cost for a long time to come.
The variety of choices is also expanding. In 2007, 700 new gluten-free products were launched in the U.S., up from 214 in 2004. Mintel projects a 15% to 25% annual growth rate for gluten-free foods over the next few years. Ref 3
WHAT GROUPS OF PEOPLE are going GLUTEN FREE
An extensive but not exhaustive list of celiac disease effects are shown in a GFP article. Some of the more serious types are considered to be: "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)." Ref 2
While these are the effects of celiac disease, there are FOUR non distinct classes of people who choose a gluten free diet. The "non negotiable" group of celiac are those with the celiac gene who must remove gluten to lead a healthy life. The second group "believe the gluten-free diet may help in the treatment of autism and a host of other disorders, including schizophrenia, chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis, attention deficit disorder, migraine and even fertility problems. Ref 3
The THIRD group take gluten-free foods because they have gastrointestinal problems that improve when they go on a gluten-free diet. This group is said to have "gluten sensitivity," there is an immune response or associated condition even though the patient might not have the small-intestine findings on a biopsy to meet the criteria for celiac disease, says Dr. Eric Esrailian, director of general gastroenterology at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine.
Group FOUR are said to have "Gluten intolerance," or those who experience symptoms similar to the term lactose intolerance.
WHAT ARE THE LATEST PRODUCT TRENDS?
In the US in 2009 the Natural Products Expo West, held in March at the Anaheim Convention Center had tables filled with gluten-free breads, pasta, pot pies, brownies, muffins, beer, cosmetics and even dog treats. (Ref 3) As people become more aware of the prevalence of gluten in almost every product class, they are demanding gluten free alternatives.
SO what is accelerating the use of gluten free? One source suggests that because of the intensity of the intolerance (one grain of bread causing a reaction), "separate ovens, toasters and other appliances can be needed to reduce contamination. So, many families of sufferers lead gluten-less lives as well." Ref 1 This is similar to the reason why when only a small percentage of CD people have been diagnosed that they are bringing their whole families to gf restaurants for the sake of the one gluten free family member.
Remarkably with all of the latest research there are still articles on the net that see gluten free as a fad. This is partly due to the fad trends that the US has seen in the past. Consider that new food products labelled 'gluten-free' jumped 86% in 2008. But new low-carb product launches fell by more than half from peak levels of 2004. Ref 5. Other articles go much further with doctors still willing to offer a ‘devils advocate' opinion to the actual existence of the disease being real. In time we expect these doctors to be converted in the same manner as some ‘expert' doctors denied that cigarettes and asbestos were harmful or that global warming is a myth.
And there are broader concerns. Some dieticians worry about the long-term effects of a strict gluten-free diet on those who don't need to be on it, because in avoiding foods with gluten, people may give themselves nutritional deficiencies. Those who elect to go on the diet need to watch that they get adequate amounts of B vitamins, and particularly increase folic acid ingestion.
ref 1: June 02, 2008 http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=91515
Ref 2: March 15, 2009 http://www.gourmetretailer.com/gourmetretailer/content_display/news/e3i68061ff8eae6a637fce99ed1d7c54d9c
Ref 3 July 7, 2008 http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-he-gluten7-2008jul07,0,4319882,full.story
Ref 5: February 2 2007. http://money.cnn.com/2007/02/02/news/companies/newproducts_survey/index.htm
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