The Grain Foods Foundation is an organization comprising members of the baking and milling industries, and it says its intended purpose is to advance public understanding of the beneficial role that grain-based foods – bread in particular – can play in people’s diets. Gluten-free diets have increased in popularity as a result of increased diagnosis of celiac disease as well as gluten intolerance and a perception that the diet is healthier, and many manufacturers have introduced gluten-free products in order to respond to this demand.
GFF is keen that its members present a united message about this rise in gluten-free demand and the organization is unambiguous in its support for gluten-free diets as “critical for patients with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance.”
It added: “They are also helpful for those with allergies to wheat, but are unnecessary for the general population in terms of cost and nutrient delivery.”
It said that a gluten-free diet for someone who does not suffer from celiac disease could present nutritional challenges including “limited alternatives, unnecessary cost, variable quality, limited dietary fiber and whole grain options (when the offending whole grain products are not allowed), and a decrease in folic acid and other nutrients since many gluten-free products may not be enriched or fortified.”
The advice from GFF is that manufacturers should communicate the benefits of a gluten-free diet for those who need it for medical reasons, “while debunking myths and misperceptions.”
“As food manufacturers and marketers, you have an important role to play in addressing the gluten-free movement,” it said.
While GFF has taken a position that challenges the nutritional sense of adopting a gluten-free diet without good medical reason, it also highlights ways in which its members can encourage good nutrition for those who do eat gluten-free.
“We will also focus on communicating gluten-free whole grains, such as corn, rice and quinoa, as an attractive dietary option,” it said. “These grains will also help provide necessary fiber and antioxidants to the diet.”
Market research organization Packaged Facts clearly sees the trend toward gluten-free formulations as more than a fad, estimating that sales of gluten-free products will reach $2.6bn by 2012.
In a recent report, it said that the gluten-free market has grown at an average annual rate of 28 percent since 2004, when it was valued at $580m, to reach $1.56bn last year.