Gluten-free leads "free from" surge into the mainstream
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% of total global food and drinks launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in the 12 months to the end of April 2015, rising to over 18% in the US.
"This is partly due to improved labeling regulations," reports 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%, rising to an amazing 43% in the US.
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%, 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. Biscuits account for the largest number of gluten-free bakery launches, with over 40%, equivalent to 8% of total biscuit introductions, while bread has less than 16% of gluten-free bakery launches, but this is equivalent to 9% of total bread introductions.
The snacks market is also seeing a relatively high proportion of launches featuring gluten-free claims, averaging 13% globally, but rising to over 42% in the US.
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 emphasising the gluten-free nature of existing lines.
"Gluten intolerance is no longer the only reason for buying gluten-free foods," notes 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," she concludes.
Innova Market Insights, www.innovadatabase.com