HARTBEAT VISTA VIDEO: We thought gluten-free was a fad... We were wrong

By Elaine WATSON

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Gluten-free products, Gluten-free diet, Celiac disease

Aside from people with celiac disease, which is estimated to affect less than 1% of the US population, why do so many other Americans buy gluten-free products, and will they carry on buying them, or are current growth rates unsustainable?

Discussing these questions on the Hartbeat Vista​  multimedia platform, Hartman Group SVP of business development Shelley Balanko said: “Admittedly when we first weighed in, we dismissed gluten-free as a passing fad that was indicative of an enduring and underlying interest in digestive health.

“Well, time has proven that we were wrong… and we were right. We were wrong about gluten-free foods being a passing fancy, but we’ve been right about consumers’ enduring quest for digestive health, as it is deemed foundational to their overall wellness”

She added: “Consumers’ unwavering focus on digestion is evidenced by the gluten-free frenzy, plus the success of the Greek yogurt category and strong performance of Kefir and other categories that promote a healthy gut.”

As to her predictions for the future, she said: “We expect gluten-free product category growth to continue… Aside from managing celiac disease, mainstream motivations for purchase include overall health and wellbeing, digestive health and weight loss.”

The rise and rise of gluten free

According to a January 2013 consumer survey by The NPD Group, 30% of American adults say they are trying to reduce or exclude gluten from their diets.

Meanwhile, the (many experts would argue erroneous) belief that a gluten-free diet will help you lose weight and improve your health even if you don’t have celiac disease, continues to gain momentum, according to a Packaged Facts consumer survey of US adults conducted last summer.

Asked why they bought gluten-free products, 35% said gluten-free products were "generally healthier",​ 27% said "to manage my weight​", 21% said that gluten free products are "generally low-carb​" and 15% said a member of the household had a gluten or wheat intolerance.

Just 7% said they were buying them because a household member had celiac disease.

An explosion of gluten-free items on menus at limited service restaurants (LSRs)

gluten-free-menu-memphis-restaurant-cheffies-cafe
A recent analysis of orders from GrubHub’s database of 20,000+ restaurants in more than 500 US cities showed a significant increase in gluten-free takeout orders

Meanwhile, a recent analysis​ of orders from GrubHub’s database of 20,000+ restaurants in more than 500 US cities showed a significant increase in gluten-free takeout orders, while Technomic claims there has been an “explosionof gluten-free items​” on menus at limited service restaurants (LSRs) in the past two years.

In its January 2013 ‘Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report’, Technomic said: “Essentially non-existent as a health claim on mainstream menus just two years ago, there are now hundreds of LSR menu items described as gluten-free.

 

Shelley-Hartbeat-Vista
Shelley Balanko: Consumers’ unwavering focus on digestion is evidenced by the gluten-free frenzy, plus the success of the Greek yogurt category and strong performance of Kefir and other categories that promote a healthy gut

Once promoted as a menu alternative to the small segment of the population that suffers from celiac disease, gluten-free items are now positioned as simply better-for-you choices that are generally perceived by consumers to be lighter fare​.”

Click here​ for all our latest news on gluten-free trends.

Click here​ to get Shelley’s take on consumers and GMO labeling.

Click here​ to watch more videos on the Hartbeat Vista platform, which features interviews with consumers, trend watchers and analysts at Hartman Group on everything from coconut flour to eating alone, food allergies and online shopping habits.

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2 comments

Gluten not exactly the problem

Posted by Jerry Segers,

Gluten is only a surrogate for the real product I am avoiding. I am avoiding wheat in all forms. Through multiple trials, the stuff called wheat causes my blood pressure to rise over 30 points from 120/80 to 160 over 95 even when taking blood pressure medicine. Spelt is ok so gluten is not problem. It is the wheat itself so I buy gluten free to avoid the wheat. Gluten free manufacturers need to take note. I am not the only one.

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Gluten sensitivity goes beyond celiac disease.

Posted by Eva Dickman,

Once again, you posit that people with digestive problems are emotional and special diets are a fad. Why is there gluten sensitivity in the first place? Because our flour was changed in the 1960s and 1970s. Now people deal with inflammation, irritable bowl disease, acid reflux, gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. They search the grocery stores for products that will nourish them and not cause them distress. It is estimated 6-7% of the population struggles with digestive disorders which I believe will only get worse as more staple products are replaced with GMO "equivalents" if you believe in that. I am glad you are producing gluten free products, but know that the modern food industry is largely to blame for creating foods that contribute to all these allergies and sensitivities in the first place.

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