Snacks - particularly those using ancient grains – and baking mixes have been pushing the gluten-free sector forward, according to market research firm Mintel.
More indulgent products, with better packaging to rival conventional items, were also helping the segment move towards the mainstream.
Gluten-free cereal and snack bars surge forward
Gluten-free producers had already started to take advantage of a large market for snack food, Yannick Troalen, consultant at Mintel, told attendees at Limagrain’s Gluten-Free seminar in France last week. Between 2010 and 2012, sales of gluten-free cereal and snack bars grew by 32%, while non-gluten-free sales grew by 16%.
“Companies tend to prefer more product varieties and are going outside simple bread and are looking at snacking innovations in particular,” Troalen said.
“Cereal-based snacks is really a category of interest, particularly in the US, we know they love snacking. Many manufacturers put an emphasis on snacks; snacks that are alternative to wheat-based snacks, but also an alternative to crisps and cookies.”
He added manufacturers were also turning to ancient grains – such as quinoa, spelt and millet – for snacks to boost their positioning as a healthy product.
Manufacturers had also been using more attractive packaging that competed with non gluten-free designs, and offered more indulgent gourmet flavors, Troalen said.
He used Udi’s, a US brand from Boulder that had recently expanded into the UK, as an example of a company that appealed to both celiac and non-celiac consumers. “The packaging is very warm, very mainstream, it does not put off consumers who feel it is too clinical as a product,” he said.
“It’s labeled as gluten-free but it will appeal to a broader range of people, not just from the pack but the flavors. It is something that is much more indulgent than what we’ve seen in the market over the last five or six years.”
Baking ingredients and mixes
The baking mixes category also offered opportunities for gluten-free producers, Troalen said. In north America, 14% of baking mixes and ingredient launches had gluten-free as a claim between 2011-2013, and in Europe this figure was 8% (Mintel GNPD).
“It’s about taking a new interest in cooking and baking: we know it’s a key interest in the market, there are a lot of people who want to go back baking their own cakes,” said Troalen. “So perhaps they also want to find a gluten-free alternative on the shelf.”
Troalen advised gluten-free producers to take their cue from general market trends in order to target a wide range of consumers, which extend far beyond people with celiac disease.
Gluten-free products are necessary for people with celiac disease (approximately 1% of the US population). However, 72% of gluten-free consumers have not been diagnosed with celiac disease.
Consumers choose to follow the diet for a number of reasons including symptoms of intolerance or sensitivity; a perception that gluten-free products are healthier; or belief the diet will help them lose weight.