U.S. sales of gluten-free foods rise 63 percent in two years


According to global market research firm Mintel, dollar sales of gluten-free products are surging. A new report from the company, "Gluten-Free Foods — US," forecasts the gluten-free food market to reach sales of $8.8 billion in 2014, representing an increase of 63 percent from 2012 to 2014.

“Overall, the gluten-free food market continues to thrive off those who must maintain a gluten-free diet for medical reasons, as well as those who perceive gluten-free foods to be healthier or more natural,” said Amanda Topper, food analyst at Mintel. “The category will continue to grow in the near term, especially as FDA regulations make it easier for consumers to purchase gluten-free products and trust the manufacturers who make them

All gluten-free food segments increased in the past year, Mintel noted, although the snack segment increased the most. Gluten-free snacks increased 163 percent from 2012 to 2014, reaching sales of $2.8 billion. Sales increases were mainly the result of a 456 percent increase in potato chip sales.

Meanwhile, the meat/meat alternatives segment is the second-largest gluten-free food segment in terms of sales, reaching $1.6 billion in 2014, a 14 percent increase from 2012 to 2014. In addition, Mintel said, the bread products and cereal segment saw gains of 43 percent during that same time period and is set to reach $1.3 billion this year.

Despite strong growth during the past few years, retailers and suppliers will still find opportunities to innovate, Topper said, especially in categories that traditionally contain gluten. Bread and cereal are ripe for gluten-free growth, Mintel added, with only 1 percent of the overall segment termed gluten-free.

“Gluten-free products appeal to a wide audience; 41 percent of U.S. adults agree they are beneficial for everyone, not only those with a gluten allergy, intolerance or sensitivity," Topper said. "In response, food manufacturers offering either gluten-free alternatives or existing products with a gluten-free label have increased dramatically over the last several years,” adds Amanda.

But it seems not everyone is convinced of the health attributes of gluten-free products. Thirty-three percent of respondents to a 2013 Mintel survey agreed that “gluten-free diets are a fad,” and the number increased to 44 percent of Americans in 2014. However, gluten free’s popularity has not waned — 22 percent of Americans currently follow a gluten-free diet, compared to 15 percent in 2013, Mintel said.