Celiac.com 10/01/2014 - News that snack foods, like cookies, crackers, salty snacks and snack bars now account for more than half of new gluten-free product sales has some leading analysts and industry representatives sounding the alarm.

Photo: CC--Michael CoghlanSpeaking at a webinar hosted by the Institute of Food Technologists, Ardent Mills’ director of commercial insights, David Sheluga PhD, announced that the market is starting to get a bit saturated with gluten-free snack products, and that he’d like to see "a little bit more distribution of other types of product categories."

The top-selling gluten-free categories break down as follows: Crackers ($156m), salty snacks ($125m), bread and rolls ($120m), pasta ($78m), cookies ($60m), baking mixes ($55m), RTE cereal ($49m), ancient grains ($47m), snack bars ($45m), flour ($43m), and frozen pizza ($35m).

Currently, market research company Mintel reckons the US gluten-free retail market topped $10 billion in 2013. This figure includes anything with a gluten-free label, including naturally-gluten-free products.

When the category is limited to products specifically formulated to replace wheat and where gluten-free is "not just a minor claim among a bundle of others," Dr. Sheluga says the market is likely closer to $1.2 billion. 70% of these sales were driven by heavy buyers, who account for just 3.8% of US households.

Still, he says that Ardent Mills remains 'pretty bullish' about gluten-free category growth overall. Sheluga points out that almost three-quarters of gluten-free products on the market in 2009 are still available today, whereas 85% of new products disappear from grocery market shelves after just two years.

Still, Sheluga notes that the market for actual celiac disease patients is limited, and that we may be reaching a point where we can’t push consumers to eat more gluten-free snack.

So, while he notes that there’s likely still plenty of room for the gluten-free food market to grow, he is among a growing chorus to wonder out loud if we reaching a breaking point where we can’t eat any more snacks?

The entire webinar may be accessed for a fee at: IFT

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