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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Snack Foods Account for Majority of Gluten-free Food Sales—Is That a Problem?

    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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    This is an interesting article. It makes sense that at some point the gluten-free snacks market might become somewhat saturated. However, there will likely always be room for improvement on current gluten-free products and room for competitors with superior products. More and more I find myself looking for items marked "certified gluten free" not just "gluten free". Knowing the certified gluten-free products undergo testing for gluten and are certified adds a level of confidence. Also, some products that are labeled only "gluten free" have cross-contamination issues and even say in the fine print that they were manufactured in facilities where wheat is handled. I also imagine that I'm not the only one who in addition to looking for "certified gluten free" is also looking for "GMO-free". Knowing what a sensitive thing the gut can be, I don't want to take chances with GMO foods since we are definitely in the human beings as guinea pigs stage with GMOs and understanding their long-term safety/health risks.

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    People buy gluten free snacks for their friends that can't eat gluten and then when that friend is over they eat gluten free too because the crackers, cakes and pretzels taste great. The gluten free market is not limited to just the households where someone has celiac or an intolerance to gluten.

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    I am disgusted when I go to local markets and even so called "health food" stores and find that most of the gluten free products that are carried are mostly what I consider "junk food" and nutritionally empty calories. Most are snack foods. Yes, we celiacs want treats too, but it would be nice once in a while to find something gluten free that tastes good and is good for you.

    I wish more attention would be paid to finding "real" (read as Artisan) breads, bagels that look and taste like bagels, and entrees and snacks that were not just expensive empty calories.

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    I thought the introduction was a bit misleading or perhaps it was me. I interpreted it to ask if gluten-free snacks were a problem for buyers not sellers. I think it could be a problem for buyers (the public) because there is rarely any nutritional value in many of the gluten-free snacks.

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    I think this was a bit misleading also.

    I think that the snack foods being the majority of gluten-free sales makes a lot of sense.

     

    I think gluten-free folks are more likely to make a lot of our food from scratch. We've learned how to, its what we are used to and what we know and trust. The majority of my meals I make are from whole foods, so I'm not out there buying a lot of gluten-free packaged anything.

     

    When I do buy a product that is packaged, and labelled "CGF" its because its something that I can't do easily or simply don't have time to do or any given day at home. Yes, it could be cookies or crackers, etc. My parents also keep these snacks around at their home too, as someone else mentioned, its just easier to serve everyone the same snack, and often the gluten-free version is very good.

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    I thought the introduction was a bit misleading or perhaps it was me. I interpreted it to ask if gluten-free snacks were a problem for buyers not sellers. I think it could be a problem for buyers (the public) because there is rarely any nutritional value in many of the gluten-free snacks.

    There isn't much nutritional value in the non-gluten-free snacks either!

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. He previously served as Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

  • Related Articles

    Dr. Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.
    This article appeared in the Autumn 2007 edition of Celiac.com's Scott-Free Newsletter.
    Celiac.com 03/10/2008 - Virtually every parent and every professional person who works with children wants to see them learn, grow, and achieve to the greatest extent of their potential.  The vast majority of these caregivers know that nutrition plays an enormous role in each child’s realizing their potential.  Unfortunately, that is where agreement ends.  There are almost as many perspectives on what constitutes a healthy diet as there are people on this planet.  Some claim that the healthiest diet is that of a vegetarian which almost invariably leads to a heavy reliance on grains and which is devoid of vitamin B12.  Others assert, based on cardiovascular disease being our number one killer that the best diet includes the smallest amount of fats.  They believe that fat consumption is related to blood cholesterol levels and that blood cholesterol levels are the best predictor of heart attacks.  Yet low cholesterol has been linked to increased cancer risk.  Still others argue for the health benefits conferred by a high protein diet.  They point out the importance of proteins in providing the building blocks for immune system function and the body’s maintenance and repair at the cellular level.  A small but growing faction points to the health benefits of a diet dominated by fats with little or no carbohydrate content.  Other diets target refined sugars and flours as problematic.  Added to this diversity, there is a plethora of dietary perspectives that advocate rigid proportions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates.  The proportions of each component vary according to the data that is given the most credence by the creators and advocates of each diet.  Many dietary rituals have grown up around cancer avoidance or therapy, weight loss strategies, treatments for cardiovascular disease or its avoidance, and autoimmune diseases.  Book, video tape, audio tape, menu guides, and other media sales are just a starting point.  Some advocates of specific dietary strategies are even selling special foods that comply with their recommendations.  The profit motive can be a powerful factor in creating bias.  Then there are the government sponsored healthy eating guides.  Of course, each paradigm assumes that one diet can be recommended for all people.  The USDA has recently devised recommendations that do make concessions to gender and stage-of-life (with separate recommendations for children, adults, and seniors) but even with these changes, the USDA provides a clear message advocating plenty of grains and little fat.  It is difficult to determine just how much these recommendations have been influenced by special interest lobbies.  Agricultural and food production corporations have made astronomical investments in current dietary practices and shaping new dietary trends.  Is it reasonable to expect them to be responsive to evolving research findings?  
    Those of us who have experienced the painful shock that we were ill, sometimes deathly ill, from grain proteins that come highly recommended by government food guides, have had to revise our views of healthy eating and reject such flawed guidance.  Gluten sensitivity and celiac disease often crop up in the context of what many health care professionals tout as a healthy diet.  Prior to my own diagnosis of celiac disease, I remember one physician recommending that I eat bran every morning to reverse some of the gastrointestinal problems I was having.  He would not believe that eating bran made me vomit.  There is a persistent sense that we should all know what constitutes a good diet.  Almost every one of us who have to avoid gluten knows that avoiding it is a healthy choice for us, irrespective of government or private sector recommendations for healthy eating.  We have learned not to trust these prescriptions filled with certitude and rigidity.  We have found new-found health in eating habits that are diametrically opposed to those recommendations.
     
    Thus, many of us will have a very different view of conventional dietary wisdom.  For instance, Dr. Eve Roberts, a scientist at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, was quoted on Monday, September 24th in the Victoria Times Colonist as saying: “I do not want children to grow up with liver disease because we forgot to tell them how to eat” (1).  I’m sure that same attitude abounds throughout the medical profession.  Unfortunately, despite the overwhelming consensus that children should not suffer such diet-induced illnesses, there is little agreement on exactly what we should be telling children (or adults for that matter) to help them avoid fatty liver disease.  The medical literature provides research reports of several contradictions on this point. 
    In fact, contradictions abound throughout the medical literature.  So how are we to choose a healthy diet? What can we teach our children about eating well? For those of us who are gluten sensitive or have celiac disease, gluten avoidance is a given.  For our children, the answer is less clear.  They will be at greater risk of having celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, but what should we teach them about these grains? Should they avoid gluten entirely? Should they eat normally until they become ill—perhaps risking permanent neurological damage or a deadly cancer? Should they be constantly vigilant with regular blood tests, endoscopies, or IgG allergy testing?
    Many of us have been told to “just eat a balanced diet”.  It sounds appealing, but it is so vague as to provide little meaningful direction.  What is a healthy diet and how do we judge if any special interest group is more interested in health than profits? Just how much can we trust information that has a price tag attached to it? Somebody is profiting.  Can they really provide objective guidance? These questions should form part of our search for information.  There is nothing wrong with making a profit or earning a living from providing dietary advice.  However, it is important to be aware of any possible conflicts of interest.  
    For these reasons, I have developed my own strategy for determining what advice and guidance I can provide to my children and grandchildren.  I acknowledge that this approach is limited by my own biases, my finite capacity for assimilating and synthesizing information, my incomplete familiarity with nutritional research, and my own personal experiences.  On the other hand, I don’t have to worry about being directly influenced by profiteering or lobby groups diverting me from my primary purpose.
    On that basis, I have proceeded to explore my own dietary program.  I have conducted some trial-and-error experiments on myself, and I have read as extensively as my part-time avocation of dietary investigation permits.  From this, I have learned to trust my own gut.  If something doesn’t feel right in my stomach, I avoid it.  I have also learned to trust my sense of smell.  If a food does not smell appetizing to me, I don’t eat it.  I suspect that this is a tool that evolution has provided us with to determine what is and is not safe to eat.  Those without it probably stopped contributing to the human gene pool.  I have learned that IgG allergy testing is an effective tool with which I can reduce the lengthy trial-and-error process necessary for identifying the majority of allergies.  I realize that this testing has its weaknesses, but so does almost every other form of medical testing.  I have come to accept that as long as human beings are involved, we will have imperfect testing, regardless of claims to the contrary.  Finally, although I try to read critically, I read medical and scientific research reports to stay abreast of new findings and gain a better understanding of this complex field.
    The tentative conclusions I have reached, pending new information, are as follows:

    Gluten grains probably aren’t very good for people.  They are highly allergenic affecting at least 10% of the general population, and perhaps as much as 40%  of the population.  These grains also contain opioids morphine-like substances that can be highly addictive and have a deleterious effect on our ability to resist cancer.  They also contain large quantities of starch that is converted very rapidly into sugars. The evidence suggests that refined sugars and starchy foods cause many of our problems with obesity, vision problems due to growth related distortions of the eyeball, type II diabetes, and hypoglycemia.  Dairy products probably aren’t very good for anyone either.  They are also highly allergenic and contain opioids similar to those found in gluten.  Further, about two thirds of the world’s adult populations are lactose intolerant.  They don’t retain enzymes for digesting milk sugars after childhood. I think it is wise to avoid processed foods where possible.  The more they’ve been processed, the further they are from the state in which we evolved eating them. I believe it is a good idea to avoid eating soy because it has been linked to neurological diseases and other health problems that I don’t want to develop. I avoid foods to which IgG blood testing has shown to cause an immune reaction in me. I try to avoid juices, as these are mostly sugar.  Those are the things I try to avoid.  On a more positive note, there are several specific strategies that I try to follow:
    I take supplements of vitamins and minerals which evidence has shown that I either absorb poorly or have been depleted from the soils in which my food is grown. I try to eat whole fruits and vegetables. I try to eat when I am hungry—not according somebody else’s idea of appropriate mealtimes. If I am ever diagnosed with cancer, I will follow a ketogenic diet.  That is a diet that is dominated by fats, includes about 30% protein, and includes no carbohydrates.  I have tried this diet for about a month.  I can’t say that I enjoy it very much, but I’d be happy to forego the pleasure of carbohydrates if my life is at stake.
    I’m very grateful to my wife who works very hard at finding tasty treats so I don’t have to feel isolated or deprived in social situations where food is consumed.
    I’m convinced that even a little exercise is a critical feature of a well balanced diet, but that belongs in another column.
    I realize that these strategies are often impractical and I don’t pretend to live up to all of them, except for gluten and dairy avoidance.  I also suspect that I would be better off if I ate organic fruits and vegetables along with range fed meat.  I also suspect that I should avoid any genetically modified food.  We really don’t know what’s in that stuff! I haven’t reached the point yet where I am sufficiently motivated to change my diet to that extent, although I do realize that it would probably be a good idea.  I am convinced that Dr. Barry Sears is onto something when he advocates specific proportions of each food type for optimal health and performance.  Unfortunately, my diet is already complex enough that without some specific and highly motivating reason, I’m just too busy or lazy to be bothered with measuring such things.  I just let my taste buds and availability (my wife only cooks one cake at a time) determine my portion sizes.This is the balanced diet I recommend.  I sorely doubt that my children or my grandchildren follow my advice, except when they visit during mealtimes.  However I am confident that such a diet, should they choose to accept it, will not cause them to self-destruct due to dietary disease.


    Scott Adams
    This article originally appeared in the Autumn 2002 edition of Celiac.com's Journal of Gluten-Sensitivity.
    The results of my latest Celiac.com survey indicate that 71 percent of 983 respondents dine out less often now than before they went on a gluten-free diet.  Further, 74 percent of those who do eat out are now more nervous and uncomfortable during their dining experience, and 50 percent of them felt this way because it is either too much trouble to explain their diet, or because they felt that restaurant employees are in too big of a hurry to worry about their special needs.  As a resident of San Francisco, a city that supposedly has enough table space in its restaurants to seat everyone in the city at once, these results disappoint me.  Not because I eat out less due to my gluten-restricted diet, or am uncomfortable when I do so, but because I don’t believe that anyone with celiac disease who is armed with the proper knowledge needs to fear or avoid eating out.
    In order to eat out safely the first thing that you must check before going into a restaurant is your attitude.  If you are the type of person who is too embarrassed to send your meal back because they didn’t follow your instructions or if you are the opposite type and are so demanding that you often annoy the staff—you will need to find some middle ground.  It took me a while to reach this point, but I can now go into a restaurant with confidence and look at getting a good gluten-free meal there as a personal challenge that begins when I walk through their door. 
    Upon entering a restaurant the first thing that you need to notice is how busy the place is, including how stressed out the workers seem to be—the more stressed out they are, the more tactful you will need to be to get what you want—a safe meal.  One rule that has served me well in all situations is to keep it simple—both your order and how you place it.  I never try to give a scientific discourse on celiac disease to restaurant workers, as I have found that it only serves to frustrate or confuse them.  Tell them only what they need to know—that you have an allergy to wheat (using the term gluten will typically lead back into long explanations) and need to make sure that your dish is wheat-free.  I wouldn’t tell them that you’ll get violently ill if ANY wheat ends up in your meal, as some people recommend, because they probably won’t want to serve you.  I also wouldn’t go into detail about hidden ingredients that contain wheat—it will take too long to explain and you will again run the risk of scaring them into not serving you. 
    I usually don’t approach the chef unless it’s very slow because he is probably the busiest person in a restaurant.  When it’s busy I always ask the waiter to give the chef special order instructions, both verbally and in writing on the order ticket.  Rather than try to educate the staff and make them experts on gluten, it’s far more efficient if you are the one who becomes more educated with regard to the dishes you like to eat so that you can order them in a manner that will ensure your safety.  I strongly believe that your diet is ultimately your responsibility and not a restaurant’s (with the exception of any mistakes that they might make).
    The key to ordering a gluten-free meal is your beforehand knowledge of its ingredients and how it is prepared.  Most people who have cooked have a basic understanding of how certain dishes are prepared, and how they could contain gluten.  Even if you aren’t a cook you might have had the meal you want to order enough times to know something about its ingredients and preparation methods.  You need only to know enough about the meal to ask the right questions so that you can alter any preparation methods that might cause it to contain gluten.  For example, whenever I order a salad I always tell them no croutons, and to bring me olive oil and vinegar for dressing.  If I order fried rice in a Chinese restaurant I order it without soy sauce, or I give them my own bottle to cook with.  If you order something properly and it arrives incorrectly, send it back!  I recently ordered Chinese food with my family and did everything right—I told them about my wheat allergy, gave them my bottle of soy sauce, and told the waitress that I wanted to make sure that there was no wheat flour in or on anything that I ordered (but that corn starch is fine—if you don’t clarify this point it might unnecessarily eliminate or alter many Chinese dishes).  When our food arrived the chicken I ordered was breaded.  After inquiring about it I found out that they used wheat flour so I sent it back, the waitress apologized, and it was no big deal.
    I recommend that you purchase and read basic cookbooks for the types of foods that you like to eat so that you can place your order with confidence.  For example, I own several cookbooks for my favorite cuisines, including ones that cover Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Italian, Vietnamese, Indian and American foods.  I typically look over the relevant cookbook before I go to a particular restaurant so that I can get an idea of what I want to order and how to order it.  The more up-front knowledge you have about how the dishes you like are prepared, the easier it will be for you to order them in a manner that ensures that they are safe.  Having these books around is also great should you begin to cook more at home, which 65 percent of my survey respondents already do, and this is something that I also highly recommend.
    Generally speaking I try to avoid large chain restaurants as much as possible because many of their items are highly processed and contain a huge number of ingredients.  Their employees typically have no idea what’s in their foods.  I think that many of the survey respondents are with me on this, as 70 percent of them also eat less processed and junk foods due to their gluten-free diets.  I only eat at chain restaurants if I am able to check their Web sites in advance for safe items, and if I can’t do this I am extra careful about what I order.  I try to eat at smaller, family-owned establishments because they usually know the ingredients and preparation methods for all of their dishes.  Additionally, authentic ethnic foods such as Mexican, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese and Korean typically use little wheat, so I lean more towards these types of foods when I eat out. 
    The transition to a gluten-free diet isn’t easy—74 percent of survey respondents thought it was difficult or very difficult.  Like many things in life, it took some up-front work on your part to be able to make the successful transition to a gluten-free diet, and the same is true for eating out.  I like to think that what you put into it, you will get out of it—the more you learn about cuisine and its various methods of preparation, the more pleasant and care-free your dining experiences will be, and the more likely you will be to get a safe meal.  Life’s too short to not enjoy the basic pleasure of eating out, so the next time you get the urge, do your homework first, then take charge of your meal at the restaurant!


    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 08/08/2011 - In the face of steadily rising numbers of people with celiac disease, very little information exists on the economic costs and impacts associated with celiac disease.
    A team of researchers recently set out to assess the impact of celiac disease diagnosis on health care costs and the incremental costs associated with celiac disease.
    The research team included K. H. Long, A. Rubio-Tapia, A. E. Wagie, L. J. Melton III, B. D. Lahr, C. T. Van Dyke, and J. A. Murray.
    They are affiliated variously with the Division of Health Care Policy & Research, the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the Division of Epidemiology, and the Division of Biomedical Statistics and Informatics at the College of Medicine of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
    To carry out their population-based cohort, the team used administrative data on celiac disease cases and matched controls from Olmsted County, Minnesota.
    They compared: 1) direct medical costs one year before and one year after celiac disease diagnosis for 133 index cases and for control subjects; and 2) cumulative direct medical costs over four years for 153 index celiac cases and for control subjects. Their analyses did not include diagnostic-related and outpatient pharmaceutical costs.
    They found that a diagnosis of celiac disease lowers the average total costs by $1,764 in the year following diagnosis (pre-diagnosis cost of $5,023 vs. $3,259; 95% CI of difference: $688 to $2,993).
    They found also that, over a 4-year period, people with celiac disease faced an average of $1,457 in higher outpatient costs (P = 0.016), and an average of $3,964 in higher total costs of $3,964; (P = 0.053), compared with the control group.
    Men with celiac disease bore the brunt of those higher costs, with excess average total costs of just over $14,000 compared to costs of $4,000 for male controls; 95% CI of difference: $2,334 to $20,309).
    Costs associated with celiac disease pose a significant economic burden, especially for men with the disease.
    Early detection, diagnosis and treatment of celiac disease lowers medical costs, and will likely benefit patients and health care providers alike.
    Source:

    Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, Volume 32, Issue 2, pages 261–269, July 2010

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 05/16/2013 - As more Americans then ever are looking to either reduce the amount of gluten in their diets or to eliminate it entirely, many nutritionists are saying that cutting gluten carelessly can be unnecessary and unhealthy, while others are pointing out that it is likely a waste of money for those who do not suffer from celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
    In a recent poll by market-research company NDP Group, one in three adults said they were looking to cut down or eliminate gluten from their diets. Those are the highest numbers since NDP began asking the question in 2009. In fact, in 2012, TIME magazine put the gluten-free movement at #2 on its top 10 list of food trends.
    Current estimates put the number of Americans with celiac disease (diagnosed or not) at about 3 million. Other studies indicate that as many as many as one in 16 Americans may have a less-severe sensitivity to gluten that can trigger gastrointestinal symptoms.
    For people with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity, avoiding gluten is not merely beneficial, it is necessary for good health. For everyone else, though, avoiding gluten is unnecessary, provides questionable benefit, and can increase food costs substantially.
    One thing to remember, is that junk food is junk food, whether is contains gluten or not. Many people who do not have celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity, and who feel better after cutting gluten out of their diet, are really benefiting simply because they have eliminated junk foods and/or breaded, fried foods from their diet, not because they have a problem eating gluten.
    On the other hand, many others who do not have celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity, and who simply replace junky, processed foods with gluten-free versions are gaining little or no benefit, and are, in fact, spending money unnecessarily. That's because gluten-free foods usually cost more than their gluten-containing counterparts.
    How much more? When researchers from Dalhousie Medical School at Dalhousie University in Canada compared prices for 56 standard grocery items with similar gluten-free items, they found that the gluten-free products cost about 2½ times more than the gluten-containing versions.
    With more and more food manufacturers producing more and more gluten-free products, the gluten-free market in the United States is projected to grow from $4.2 billion last year to $6.6 billion by 2017.
    But that still doesn't add up to the NPD Group’s finding that 29% of Americans are trying to avoid gluten. The numbers suggest that many consumers are staying away from gluten simply because it’s trendy to do so.
    It is likely true that many people are following gluten-free diets unnecessarily, but it is also true that many more people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity remain undiagnosed, and the exact nature of those conditions needs to be better understood to know who will fully benefit from a gluten-free diet. In the meantime, look for the gluten-free market to grow, and look for much of that growth to be driven by people without an official diagnosis that actually requires a gluten-free diet.
    Source:
    http://business.time.com/2013/03/13/why-were-wasting-billions-on-gluten-free-food/

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