Life after gluten free: What will happen to the trend when consumers move on to ‘the next best thing’?

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Allergy & Free From Show Gluten-free Schar Doves Farm Foods

Gluten free is one of the most popular diet trends around the world, but the number of people who actually need to avoid gluten for medical reasons is relatively small. Today, one in five people reduce or eliminate gluten from their diet because they believe it to be healthier.

Is the gluten free trend all just hype? Does gluten sensitivity really exist? Are more people being diagnosed with celiac disease? What will happen when the number of gluten free consumers dwindle as they move on to the next big lifestyle?

BakeryandSnacks spoke to some of the exhibitors at The Allergy & Free From Show – held in London, UK, at the beginning of July – about the developments they have noticed in the sector.

Roger Harrop, lead category manager of Schär UK – an Italian family-run company that started producing gluten-free foods almost 40 years ago – said there are two ongoing trends in the sector.

Influx of lifestylers

“We know from research the market is sustained by those heavy users. There’re a few people who have this real need for gluten free products and they’re the ones who are sustaining the market.

“There’s also been an influx of lifestylers that have helped growth as well,”​ he said.

Tom Treverton, event director of The Allergy & Free From show, concurred, noting the London show’s ‘tremendous’ growth reflects the market.

This year’s event attracted over 400 exhibitors and over 40,000 visitors over the three days, up from 40 exhibitors and 4,000 visitors at its first showing a decade ago.

Growth drivers

“The sector has seen the emergence of millions of consumers choosing a gluten-free diet for other reasons [than medical],” ​said Treverton.

“They’ve integrated gluten free into the health & wellbeing mantra for themselves, and that has also been the instigator to a number of other trends beyond gluten free.”

Thomas Barkholt, head of marketing at Doves Farm Food noted GF producers are learning to capitalize on the health & wellness trend by creating products with additional benefits, like organic attributes, or products that are also vegan.

“That’s one area where we have seen a lot of growth in our brands and different product ranges.”

Another is convenience, he added, noting the company’s range of popular gluten-free mixes, “fantastic for people who are new to gluten-free, or people are short of time, or who want to get the kids involved.”

“Gluten free is a growth trend and we’re seeing retailers backing this by giving more space to the free from area, and the manufacturers responding and making more tastier food,”​ said Schär’s Harrop.

Frank Boltman, MD and founder of Thanks for Franks – which creates a gluten-free granola bar made with all natural ingredients – added, “Ultimately, the three things that are important to a customer are taste, happiness and value. I think that if we can drive [these] as manufacturers, we are doing the right things.”

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