The high price of dietary intolerance

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

South Africa has been labelled the worst place to be gluten- or lactose-free. Pic: GettyImages
South Africa has been labelled the worst place to be gluten- or lactose-free. Pic: GettyImages

Related tags Gluten free products lactose-free Compare the Market diet tax Coeliac disease

New research by Compare the Market Australia has revealed that gluten-free products across seven prominent markets are more than triple the unit price of the original products on average.

The study set out to examine the so-called ‘diet tax’ - the percentage price difference between the original and the alternative.

There are very few consumers around the globe who do not love bread but sadly, many breads are not as accommodating to a growing body of people who suffer from wheat intolerance.

While data is lacking on the prevalence of gluten sensitivity, studies suggest that 0.5-6% of the global population may have this condition, while around 1% are full-blown coeliacs.

gluten free bread zimmytws
Pic: GettyImages

Many bakery products contain lactose, a type of sugar found in milk and dairy products, which again causes another affliction that affect millions. In fact, approximately 65% of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy.

Enter gluten and lactose-free, which as the names suggest, are products that contain extremely small amounts or no gluten/lactose, depending on national regulations.

As experts in understanding how health insurance can benefit those with special dietary requirements, Compare the Market Australia did as its​ name implies to find out how much extra it costs to purchase gluten or lactose-free products.

The researchers gathered examples for different product categories from numerous retailers in seven countries - the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hungary and South Africa - to calculate the diet tax.

Results found the average gluten-free product was 217.15% more expensive, while lactose-free and dairy-alternative products were 46.43% pricier on average.

The UK, Australia and New Zealand had the lowest diet taxes, while Hungary and South Africa came in with the priciest.

“Food intolerances and other related illnesses are common around the world, and this research highlights just how people can be impacted by them,”​ Compare the Market spokesperson Hannah Norton.

“Not only are some people having to deal with health issues but they are being hit with a much higher price to maintain good health.”

Nothing ‘free’ about gluten-free

Overall, gluten-free was, on average, four times the percentage cost increase of lactose-free.

Gluten-free flour had the highest price jump, costing an average of 310.96% more than the original, although pricing this product was the least consistent of all the products examined. In Canada, a bag of gluten-free flour costs 133.03% more, while South African are expected to shell out 584.47% more than the price of a regular bag of flour.

Gluten-free pasta had the smallest price increase, with an average extra cost of 96.21%.

Compare the market gluten free

[I] scream over lactose-free prices

‘I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream’.​ Well, not so much if you’re lactose-intolerance.

Ice cream turned out to be the most expensive by comparison, ranging from coming in at the same price as regular ice cream to more than three times the price.

Again, the ice cream tax wildly differs across the seven markets, from a 0% increase in the US to a 11.5% hike in Hungary to a whopping 204.91% markup in South Africa.

Compare the market lactose free

Added Norton, “Despite viable alternatives becoming more prominent around the world, many people still face significant challenges trying to find reasonable alternatives to everyday grocery items.

“As research and development in these areas continues to advance, we will hopefully see a wider variety of food alternatives becoming available at more reasonable prices, so that everyone can enjoy nutrition without the hefty price tag.”

Compare the Market is a comparison service that takes the hard work out of shopping around to evaluate the costs of insurance, energy and home loans products from a range of providers.

Related topics Markets Dairy Dairy-based ingredients

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