After consumers in a recent survey said that gluten-free bakery items were their top choice in the category, DuPont Nutrition & Health conducted trials in its bakery center to come up with higher-quality products. The company said in a release that a desire for healthy living more than gluten intolerance was behind this trend and that consumers are looking for better quality and wider availability.
DuPont said the survey results also "revealed untapped potential for bakers to develop more and better-quality products with extra nutritional benefits." These include high fiber, no added preservatives, and low levels of saturated fats, carbohydrates and calories.
According to Mintel research cited by DuPont, about 1% of the population has gluten intolerance due to celiac disease, but 11% of consumers in Italy and the U.K. buy gluten-free products and 8% do so in France and Spain.
These survey results should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following the global gluten-free market. While it started out focusing on those with celiac disease and other types of gluten intolerance, those without dietary restrictions have increasingly been choosing gluten-free products because they're seen as healthier than some traditional products.
The trend is even stronger in this country than in Europe. According to a study from The Hartman Group, 35% of U.S. consumers who buy gluten-free products have no special reason to do so, while 8% said they had a gluten intolerance. However, research shows it's possible that 5% to 10% more of the population has a gluten sensitivity of some kind. According to Beyond Celiac, 83% of Americans who have celiac disease haven't been officially diagnosed, which could be another potential source of market demand.
Meanwhile, the market for gluten-free products expands. Packaged Facts has reported that U.S. sales of approximately $973 million in 2014 were projected to surpass $2 billion by 2019.
The challenge for food manufacturers has been to devise ingredient add-ons that will enhance the nutritional profile, texture and flavor of their gluten-free products. Some of these are nuts, pulses such as chickpeas, and ancient grains like buckwheat and quinoa, which bring taste, texture and additional protein to food items — and to their label claims.
General Mills has successfully taken the gluten-free route with some of its Progresso soups, as has Snyder's-Lance with its snack crackers. And many other manufacturers have joined the parade. Most recently, online meal kit company Green Chef Corporation earned gluten-free certification from the Gluten Intolerance Group's Gluten-Free Food Service program, whose label will be displayed on all of the company's gluten-free meal kits.
While some suggest that the gluten-free trend is a fad that will eventually reach a saturation point and fade away, the numbers indicate otherwise. In any case, adding a functional health halo to gluten-free bakery products certainly can't hurt food makers in a global marketplace where consumers are actively looking for one.