Grupo Bimbo must consider the US gluten-free boom, analyst warns

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Thomas bagels would be a good brand for Grupo Bimbo to go gluten-free, says Euromonitor
Thomas bagels would be a good brand for Grupo Bimbo to go gluten-free, says Euromonitor

Related tags: Gluten-free diet

Grupo Bimbo must take heed of the booming gluten-free trend as it moves to invest heavily in the US market, says an analyst.

The Mexican bread titan is set to pump $1bn into growing US market presence by 2015, but packaged foods analyst at Euromonitor International Matthew Hudak has warned it must not ignore the gluten-free boom when expanding.

“The biggest trend they need to be cautious of is gluten-free diets. They need to find out how much it really is a trend – it’s important to keep track of that,”​ Hudak told BakeryandSnacks.com.

Grupo Bimbo hasn't flagged gluten-free as a sector it is looking to tap into in its US investment.

Gluten-free: To be or not to be?

The US has the globe’s largest gluten-free market, followed by Europe. Retail value of US gluten-free food was pegged at $405m in 2012, up 15.9% on the year before, according to Euromonitor data.

Mintel data indicates sales of gluten-free bread and baked goods in the US doubled from $56m in 2009 to $119m in 2011. Sales of gluten-free potato chips, pretzels and snacks also surged, from $225m in 2009 to $388m in 2011.

Grupo Bimbo doesn’t specialize in gluten-free, ​but the firm should certainly consider entering the sector, said Hudak.

It’s a big issue for the bread industry in particular, he said, as more and more Americans decide to cut gluten out of their diets.

He said the company has two options – they could buy out a big gluten-free bakery player or introduce gluten-free variants under some of its brands.

A winner? Gluten-free brand variants

“I think taking an established brand and developing a gluten-free version would be the best option,”​ he said. Although Hudak said it would prove costly because of the need for separate production.

Using the Thomas brand would be “smart”,​ he said. “People would be willing to trust a gluten-free Thomas bagel.”

“They might never think to enter the gluten-free sector. But no matter what, gluten-free is going to be an issue for them,”​ Hudak said.

Drivers...

It's estimated that just under 1% of the US population has celiac disease, although less than 10% of these are diagnosed. But research from the NPD Group found that 30% of US adults are trying to cut down on gluten driven by a belief that cutting down will help you lose weight and improve your health.

An August 2012 Packaged Facts survey found that 35% of consumers bought gluten-free because they considered it healthier, 27% buy it to manage weight and 21% consider it low in carbohydrates.

Related topics: Manufacturers, Bakery, Gluten free

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