Skepticism and a lack of evidence regarding the health benefits of a gluten-free lifestyle for the general population haven’t diminished sales in the gluten-free food category, which has grown 136 percent since 2013.
Still, nearly half (47 percent) of consumers polled in a recent study by Mintel Group said that gluten-free diets are “a fad,” up from 31 percent in 2013.
But for now, we still seem to be riding the gluten-free wave, with Americans’ consumption of gluten-free foods at an all-time high, according to the Mintel report. In fact, 25 percent of the consumers questioned said they, at least sometimes, consume gluten-free foods, a 67 percent increase from 2013.
Some other key takeaways for restaurant operators include:
• It’s not only those with an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten who are buying gluten-free foods. Mintel says consumers perceive foods with any “free-from” claim to be both healthier and less processed.
• 26 percent of Americans are willing to pay more for gluten-free foods.
• 35 percent of consumers agree that the quality of gluten-free foods is “higher than before.”
• Only 11 percent of consumers eat gluten-free foods because a healthcare professional suggested they eliminate gluten from their diet.
• 37 percent of those polled said they eat gluten-free foods because it’s better for their overall health.
• 16 percent of those polled eat gluten-free foods because “gluten is bad for you.”
• When dining out, 28 percent of consumers with celiac disease are less strict about eating gluten-free foods compared to when eating at home.
• “Gluten-free” as an ingredient claim on menus grew 127 percent from the second quarter of 2012 to the second quarter of 2015, and is now the top nutritional claim.
• The number of consumers who eat gluten-free foods for weight loss dropped from 25 percent in 2014 to 19 percent in 2015, “suggesting that consumers are more likely to view gluten-free products as a contributing factor to their overall well-being than simply as a weight loss tool,” the Mintel report states. “This is evidenced by the 23 percent of consumers who report that they only incorporate gluten-free foods into their diet some of the time.”
“While some consumers view the gluten-free diet as a fad and are looking for improved nutrition and ingredients in gluten-free foods, consumption continues to trend upward,” says Amanda Topper, senior food analyst at Mintel.
“While finding gluten-free foods away from home can prove difficult for gluten-free food consumers, there has been growth in gluten-free restaurant options as gluten-free diets have become more popular…Moving forward, there should be more expansive gluten-free menu offerings as the foodservice industry competes with retail for the rising number of gluten-free Americans,” concludes Topper.