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

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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 welcomes your comments below (registration is NOT required).

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6 Responses:

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said this on
06 Oct 2014 6:55:33 AM PST
This is an interesting article. It makes sense that at some point the GF snacks market might become somewhat saturated. However, there will likely always be room for improvement on current GF 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 GF 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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said this on
06 Oct 2014 8:34:07 AM PST
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.

Barbara Kirch
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said this on
06 Oct 2014 5:30:13 PM PST
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.

C sugg
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said this on
07 Oct 2014 12:43:01 PM PST
I thought the introduction was a bit misleading or perhaps it was me. I interpreted it to ask if GF 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 GF snacks.

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said this on
10 Oct 2014 9:09:34 AM PST
There isn't much nutritional value in the non-GF snacks either!

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said this on
09 Oct 2014 6:41:15 AM PST
I think this was a bit misleading also.
I think that the snack foods being the majority of GF sales makes a lot of sense.

I think GF 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 GF 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 GF version is very good.

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