A quarter of Americans eat gluten-free — fad or not, it's growing: report
- In the U.S., 47% of consumers agree gluten-free diets are a fad, as opposed to 31% in 2013, according to new research from Mintel. At the same time, 25% of consumers report they eat gluten-free foods, a 67% increase from 2013. Gluten-free food sales grew 136% from 2013 to 2015, hitting sales of $11.6 billion, per estimates. That's an increase from 2013, with 2.8% of total food sales then, to 6.5% this year.
- The reasons consumers eat gluten-free, other than because they have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, include that they perceive all "free-from" foods as healthier and less processed. In Mintel's research, 37% of consumers reported they eat gluten-free for their overall health and 16% believe "gluten is bad for you." For another 11% of consumers, a healthcare professional recommended the removal of gluten from their diet.
- Although consumers perceive gluten-free as healthy, the percentage who eat these foods for weight loss decreased from 25% to 19%. Mintel says this statistic suggests consumers are more likely to see gluten-free products as part of overall well-being rather than being a weight loss strategy.
Despite the increase in gluten-free sales, the Mintel research also found only 45% of consumers trust gluten-free product claims, down from 48% in 2014. A high-profile recall, like the General Mills recall of 1.8 million boxes of gluten-free Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios that were contaminated with wheat flour, does little to engender consumer trust.
Even though science questions the value of gluten-free for people without gluten intolerance or insensitivity, companies continue to introduce gluten-free products. Lucky Charms is going gluten-free. Pinnacle Foods is purchasing Boulder Brands, which makes Udi's and Glutino gluten-free products.
"Large and small manufacturers are entering the gluten-free category, increasing the availability, quality and variety of gluten-free foods while Americans display interest in incorporating these foods into their diet," said Amanda Topper, Senior Food Analyst at Mintel. "However, since trust toward manufacturers’ labeling of gluten-free foods has slightly waned, they should consider providing messaging about the steps taken to ensure their products are gluten-free to reassure consumers. Americans have come to expect brands and products to be transparent and trust that the items they purchase are as advertised."