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Celiac disease may have little influence on soaring gluten free marketbuy almonds now

By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 04-Feb-2011

Packaged Facts says the US market for gluten free products is growing faster than expected – but few consumers buy gluten free foods to address celiac disease or dietary intolerances.

In a previous report, Packaged Facts had projected US sales of gluten free foods and beverages to reach $2.6bn by 2012, and $2.3bn by this year. However, its current estimate put the market at $2.64 billion in 2010 – a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30 percent from 2006 to 2010. In its latest report, entitled “Gluten-

Free Foods and Beverages in the U.S., 3rd Edition”, the market research organization predicts that the market will continue to grow over the next five years, albeit at a slower rate, and now projects the US market for gluten free foods and beverages to approach $5.5bn by 2015.

“Once regarded as a niche product that was only of interest to people who couldn’t tolerate wheat, gluten-free foods and beverages have quickly transformed into a mainstream sensation, embraced by consumers both out of necessity and as a personal choice toward achieving a healthier way to live,” Packaged Facts said.

While many market researchers looking into the growth of the gluten free market have speculated that under-diagnosis of celiac disease is a major driver, Packaged Facts found that this may not be the case.

The organization carried out an online nationwide survey of 1,881 adults in fall 2010, including 277 consumers of gluten free products. It found that the top reason (46 percent) for buying gluten free foods and beverages was a perception that they are ‘generally healthier’. Thirty percent of gluten free consumers said they did so in an effort to manage their weight and 22 percent said they thought gluten free products were ‘generally higher quality’.

Only 8 to 12 percent of gluten free consumers said they bought gluten free products because they or a member of their household has celiac disease or an intolerance to gluten, wheat or other ingredients.

“Interestingly, 13 percent buy gluten free foods to treat other conditions that may or may not be associated with diet,” the report said.

Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten – the protein in wheat, barley, rye and spelt – is estimated to affect about one in every 133 Americans. The only treatment currently available is complete gluten avoidance.

Packaged Facts also found that food manufacturers are increasingly adding ancient grains, such as quinoa and amaranth to their gluten free offerings in order to boost nutritional profiles.

“Enrichment and fortification are smart marketing under just about any circumstances, but for gluten-free foods it’s a more critical issue, as GF diets are often lacking in essential nutrients,” the report said.

“While savvy celiacs who are fortunate enough to have the counsel of a knowledgeable dietitian probably take measures to supplement their diets, many if not most GF dieters do not do so.”