Interest in free-from foods is continuing to rise globally, led by the growing availability of gluten-free lines in particular. Products positioned on a gluten-free platform accounted for 10 percent of total global food and drinks launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in the 12 months to the end of April 2015, rising to more than 18 percent in the U.S.
“This is partly due to improved labeling regulations,” reported Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, “but also to rising awareness of gluten intolerance in the diet and the development of more mainstream and good-tasting gluten-free products across a whole range of food and drinks sectors.” Key areas for activity in recent years have been in bakery and cereal products and snack foods, largely because of rising demand for alternatives to the relatively high number of gluten-containing lines in these sectors or because of the availability of alternative gluten-free ingredients.
The cereal products market, encompassing breakfast cereals and cereal bars, is relatively well set up to cater to the gluten-free trend, with numerous non-gluten cereal options already available. As a result of this and the relatively concentrated nature of the market, it is perhaps not surprising that the share of gluten-free launches in the cereals market is much higher than the average of the food and drinks market as a whole at 21 percent, rising to an amazing 43 percent in the U.S.
Interestingly, despite being one of the product categories most strongly associated with wheat and thus gluten, the bakery products sector has a slightly lower than average share of gluten-free launches recorded, at 9 percent, perhaps partly reflecting the diversity of the sector and the high levels of new product activity overall. The actual number of gluten-free bakery launches has nonetheless risen consistently in recent years. Cookies account for the largest number of gluten-free bakery launches, with more than 40 percent, equivalent to 8 percent of total biscuit introductions, while bread has less than 16 percent of gluten-free bakery launches, but this is equivalent to 9 percent of total bread introductions.
The snacks market is also seeing a relatively high proportion of launches featuring gluten-free claims, averaging 13 percent globally, but rising to more than 42 percent in the U.S. In terms of product and market development, the snacks market benefits particularly from the fact that many basic snacks ingredients, such as potatoes, corn, soy and nuts, are naturally gluten free, so it is a claim that is relatively easy to achieve in many instances. Ingredients used to replace wheat or other cereals and offer a gluten-free formulation over the past few years have included lentils, black beans, navy beans, cassava, brown rice, nuts, sweet potatoes and a wide variety of other vegetables.
Many other areas of the food and drinks market are also seeing rising levels of interest in gluten-free reformulations, or even in just emphasizing the gluten-free nature of existing lines.
“Gluten intolerance is no longer the only reason for buying gluten-free foods,” noted Williams. “Issues such as overall well-being, digestive health, weight management and nutritional value often deemed to be equally if not more important by consumers. With more labeling of gluten-free foods and the growing availability of a range of high quality products with a good sensory profile, the sector seems set to take further advantage of the huge potential market for this type of product.”
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