According to a recent report by The NPD Group, 11 percent of the population follows a gluten-free diet.

But with an estimation that celiac disease, or gluten intolerance, affects only about 1 percent of the population, the National Institute of Health concluded that “most persons who were following a gluten-free diet did not have a diagnosis of celiac disease.”

Considering the number of people who follow a gluten-free diet by choice instead of necessity, price sensitivity can play a huge role in the duration and magnitude of the gluten-free trend, says Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst for NPD.

“When you ask people what were some of the barriers [to the diet], one of the things that came up was price,” Seifer says. “A lot of people said [gluten-free items] were too expensive. That’s really more of the people who want to be part of the trend because they want to, not because they have to.”

Of those households that followed a gluten-free diet in the NPD study, only 25 percent did it out of necessity.

“[Those people] who just want to say, ‘You know, I just kind of feel better when I do it,’ or, ‘I just think it’s a healthier way to live,’ are certainly more flexible,” Seifer says.

He adds that it’s possible that if prices came down for gluten-free items, more people would engage in the lifestyle.

For those consumers going gluten free, food labeling remains a prominent way to communicate information about gluten.

“People in the food industry know the stuff like the back of their hands, but consumers don’t know where gluten exists,” Seifer says. “Labeling is the key; over 60 percent of primary grocery shoppers tend to depend on the label to know it’s gluten free.”

By Alex Dixon

Consumer Trends, News, Operations, NPD Group