Today’s consumers have many options when shopping gluten-free.
Across the globe, more consumers are investing in “free from” foods. Gluten-free foods in particular are gaining ground due to rising awareness of gluten intolerance in the diet and the availability of more mainstream, better-tasting gluten-free products. In the global food and drinks market in 2014, products marketed as gluten-free accounted for 9% of total food and drink launches recorded by Innova Market Insights. In the United States, interest is even higher. U.S. gluten-free launches comprised 17% of all food and drink launches in 2014.
The cereal market-encompassing breakfast cereals and cereal bars-is well positioned to cater to the gluten-free trend. Numerous non-gluten cereal options are already available to food manufacturers-most notably oats, long in demand for their fiber content and health benefits for the heart and slow energy release. It’s not surprising then that the percentage of gluten-free launches in the global cereal market-19%-is much higher compared to the percentage of gluten-free lauches in the rest of the food and drinks market.
In the cereal aisle, gluten-free cereal bars are especially popular. Two-thirds of gluten-free product launches in 2014 were, in fact, cereal bars, whereas in the overall cereal market, standard cereal bars usually make up just 45% of the overall cereal market. In the United States, more than half of cereal bar launches were gluten-free, compared to the breakfast cereal aisle, where just over a quarter of breakfast cereal launches were gluten-free.
Gluten-free launches by major U.S. brands speak to the gains of this trend, including Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Gluten-Free, one of the first gluten-free cereal launches back in 2011. Kellogg’s more recently introduced a Special K Gluten-Free option. General Mills’ Chex cereals range offers seven out of eight lines gluten-free. The brand also recently extended into gluten-free oatmeal.
In the UK gluten-free market, mainstream market leaders also recently introduced gluten-free cereals. NestlÃ©’s Cereal Partners business launched Gluten-Free Corn Flakes in the summer of 2014, followed by a launch in Germany in early 2015. Rival Kellogg’s also joined the trend in early 2015 with its first “free from” offering in the UK: Gluten-Free Organic Puffed Corn Cereal. Further afield, Sanitarium launched a gluten-free version of its popular Weet-Bix cereal in Australia, made with sorghum.
The snacks market is also seeing a relatively high proportion of gluten-free launches-approximately 11% of snack launches globally. In the United States, gluten-free snack launches are much more common-one-third of all snack launches are marketed as gluten-free.
The snacks market benefits from the fact that many basic snack ingredients such as potatoes, corn, soy, and nuts are naturally gluten-free, so it is a claim that is relatively easy to achieve in many instances. Gluten-free ingredients used to replace wheat or other cereals in the United States over the past few years include lentils, black beans, navy beans, cassava, brown rice, nuts, sweet potatoes, and a wide variety of other vegetables.
Interestingly, despite being one of the product categories most strongly associated with wheat-and thus gluten-the bakery sector witnessed a lower-than-average percentage of gluten-free launches, at just over 7% of total global bakery launches recorded in 2014. Still, the actual number of gluten-free bakery launches has grown consistently in recent years. The largest number of gluten-free bakery launches were biscuits (more than 40% of total global bakery launches), ahead of bakery ingredients and mixes (30%) and bread and cakes (at just under 14% each).
As the gluten-free bakery market grows, more brands are shifting focus away from the specialty dietetic sector and onto the mainstream market-a move bolstered by companies’ ongoing quality improvements. Bakery brands are also undergoing ongoing consolidation. In the United States, Boulder Brands (formerly Smart Balance) has built up a portfolio of healthy, natural brands in recent years, acquiring a number of gluten-free specialists. The company acquired Glutino in 2011, followed by Udi’s in 2012. Both brands continued launching gluten-free bakery lines in 2014, including a new line of hearty gluten-free breads from Glutino and gluten-free dinner rolls from Udi’s. Udi’s gluten-free sandwich breads are also quite successful. Its ancient grain products, including Millet-Chia and Omega Flax & Fibre, are particularly popular with consumers, and the brand recently added gluten-free tortillas to its line. Boulder Brands also opened the largest gluten-free manufacturing facility in the United States in 2013, reflecting its ongoing commitment to the gluten-free market.
Another leading U.S. natural foods specialist, Hain Celestial, also extended its portfolio in 2014 with the purchase of Rudi’s Organic Bakery, an organic and gluten-free specialist. Under the Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery brand, the company offers natural breads, buns, pizza crusts, and tortillas certified by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO).
Consumers no long cite gluten intolerance as the only reason they buy gluten-free foods. Their reasons now also include overall wellbeing, digestive health, weight management, and overall nutritional value. The field-and opportunities for food marketers-is widening, and with more-standardized labeling of gluten-free foods and the growing availability of high-quality products with a good sensory profile, the gluten-free sector continues to see big potential market.
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Photo credit: Late last year, NestlÃ© introduced Gluten-Free Corn Flakes and Gluten-Free Honey Flakes, certified gluten-free. Photo from NestlÃ©