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With the recent FDA ruling on gluten-free labeling standards, the popularity of gluten-free foods shows no signs of slowing down, and according to recent research from Mintel, it’s not just the gluten-intolerant who are filling their carts with wheat-free products. 65 percent of consumers who eat or used to eat gluten-free foods do so because they think they are healthier, and 27 percent eat them because they feel they aid in their weight loss efforts.
“It’s really interesting to see that consumers think gluten-free foods are healthier and can help them lose weight because there’s been no research affirming these beliefs,” says Amanda Topper, food analyst at Mintel. “The view that these foods and beverages are healthier than their gluten-containing counterparts is a major driver for the market, as interest expands across both gluten-sensitive and health-conscious consumers.”
Sales in the gluten-free food and beverage market are estimated to reach $10.5 billion in 2013. From 2011-13, the market experienced growth of 44 percent. While the incidence of celiac disease affects only 1 percent of the U.S. population, Mintel’s research finds that there has been strong interest in gluten-free food and beverage for reasons other than gluten allergy.
Additionally, over a third (36 percent) of Americans who eat or used to eat gluten-free foods say they do so for reasons other than sensitivity. Meanwhile, 7 percent say they eat them for inflammation and 4 percent say they purchase them to combat depression.
“When looking at the top 10 gluten-free food product claims in Mintel’s Global New Products Database, after gluten-free and low/no/reduced allergen, there also are product claims associated with being natural and free of additives or preservatives,” says Topper. “The positioning of gluten-free products as having multiple health benefits, such as low fat or no animal ingredients, may be leading to consumer perceptions that gluten-free products are healthier than products that contain gluten.”