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Are Supermarket Gluten-free Aisles Fleecing Customers?
Celiac.com 02/22/2016 - Are supermarkets charging extreme prices for certified gluten-free foods, which are basically the same as their non-certified counterparts?
A Channel 4 exposé of stores in the United Kingdom shows that shoppers are paying huge mark-ups for store brand gluten-free products, while similar unlabeled foods are much cheaper in other parts of the store. The Channel 4 probe found huge price differences between certified gluten-free sauces, soups and crackers and regular equivalents that do not naturally have any wheat or gluten ingredients.
The greatest price discrepancy seem to be for products bearing the supermarkets' private "Free From" labels. For example, Channel 4 found that Tesco charges 64% more for its Free From gluten-free plain wholegrain rice cakes than it charges for lightly salted ones, also without gluten. Tesco's 460g Free From ketchup costs nearly double its regular ketchup, which also contains no gluten ingredients.
Meanwhile at rival Sainsbury's, a 300g Free From juicy tomato and basil soup sells for 3 times the price of a 400g regular tomato and basil soup with no gluten ingredients. Lastly, Sainsbury's 300g Free From massala sauce was priced at nearly 65% more than a 500g jar of regular massala sauce, which also has no gluten.
Of course, the trick here is that we are comparing certified gluten-free store brands with similar products with no gluten ingredients. For many people, certified gluten-free products provide a degree of safety that they are willing to pay a premium price for.
However, in many cases, a journey away from the gluten-free aisle and some quick ingredient checking might get you a product that is as gluten-free as the certified products, and works every bit as well.
As always, consumers should be aware, read labels, and make choices that work for them.
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Jefferson Adams is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. His poems, essays and photographs have appeared in Antioch Review, Blue Mesa Review, CALIBAN, Hayden's Ferry Review, Huffington Post, the Mississippi Review, and Slate among others.
He is a member of both the National Writers Union, the International Federation of Journalists, and covers San Francisco Health News for Examiner.com.View all articles by Jefferson Adams