A gluten-free Twinkie would plug a market gap and hold huge appeal among US gluten-free consumers looking for indulgence and taste, says an analyst.
Twinkies officially returned to US shelves on July 15, with some outlets stocking them earlier over the weekend. New owners Apollo Group and C. Dean Metropoulos & Co have launched a mega marketing campaign with the tagline ‘the sweetest comeback in the history of ever’ – generating plenty of nationwide interest in the infamous snack cake.
With the comeback, the new owners have been toying with several novel product ideas; one being a gluten-free variant of the Twinkie.
“They haven’t ruled out making a gluten-free Twinkie… They’ve thrown a bunch of ideas up in the air,” said Matthew Hudak, packaged food analyst at Euromonitor International.
“The idea that they could make an indulgent gluten-free cake is interesting. The gluten-free market has an audience that would love to have something that tastes better,” Hudak told BakeryandSnacks.com.
Health appeal to gluten-free trend?
In the US, while there are 1 in 100 consumers with celiac disease, a large proportion of consumers interested in gluten-free products are doing so because of gluten intolerances or the perception that a gluten-free diet is healthier.
Hudak said that a gluten-free Twinkie would not only appeal to celiacs who have no other alternative, but also consumers who have chosen gluten-free for perceived health reasons.
“Even healthier consumers like indulgence. The new Twinkie owners could make it at the very least something that consumers eat as a very occasional, indulgent snack,” he said.
It must emulate the real Twinkie though…
However, if a new gluten-free Twinkie is launched, it would need to emulate the Twinkies already on shelf, Hudak warned. “They really have to try and nail that as best they can.”
There’s a real opportunity to develop a gluten-free, indulgent cake for the US market, he said, as big players like Udi’s and Glutino are more focused on the bagel and bread sectors.
Aside from developing a gluten-free variant, Hudak said bite size options would also be a “clever move” for the Twinkie.
“Bite size or snack size portions make sense for calorie counting and sharing – this would be another smart move,” he said.