Initially a solution to people suffering from celiac disease, allergies and intolerance, gluten-free products have become increasingly popular among consumers looking for food easy on their stomach, tapping into a growing trend of health awareness and opening up opportunities to specialty producers.
A protein found in cereal grains like wheat, rye and barley and a key component of processed and packaged foods like pasta, gluten is not easy to do without. But growing demand for such products also from non-celiac consumers is pushing food makers to innovate, creating alternatives to their traditional lines.
FREE-FROM CHOICE – Italy is the largest gluten-free food market in Europe, and second only to the United States, which is the largest in the world, according to a 2015 research by Euromonitor.
Gluten-free products are now offered across all segments, from bakery to snacks, oilseeds and rice, and are chosen by followers of the larger free-from movement that is cracking down on high levels of fat, sodium, sugar, and bans GMOs, pesticides and hormones. As demand grows, a larger selection of products has become available thanks to investment in research, with taste and texture improving over the years.
BAKERY LEADING – Whole grain, unprocessed oats, quinoa, organic corn, and alternative fours low in sodium are now used in dough and cookies. Euromonitor data show that gluten-free bakery products, including breakfast cereals, recorded a global value growth of 73% over the 2009-2014, accounting for two thirds of global gluten-free value sales two years ago. However, providing consumers with what they want remains one of the biggest challenges of the gluten-free industry. Education and information remain key. US-based retail group Whole Foods published online tips and recipes to cook gluten-free meals.