By Rieva Lesonsky
If you’re a food or restaurant entrepreneur looking for a growth market, look no further than gluten-free foods and beverages. This relatively new category is projected to top $4.2 billion in sales by the end of this year, and since 2008, has grown by an astonishing 28 percent annually, according to the recently released Packaged Facts report Gluten-Free Foods and Beverages in the U.S.
As of August 2012, Packaged Facts reports, nearly one in five U.S. adults either buy or consume products labeled gluten-free, and the share of total shoppers who report they are buying more gluten-free products has doubled.
If you think gluten-free products have a limited audience of consumers who suffer from celiac disease, food allergies or other health conditions that require a gluten-free diet, think again. A growing number of consumers are purchasing these products not because they need them for medical reasons, but simply because they think they’re healthier. In fact, Packaged Facts research director David Sprinkle reports, “The conviction that gluten-free products are generally healthier is the top motivation for purchase of these products.”
In addition, many consumers are buying or eating them to support friends or family members who have to follow a gluten-free diet. And more than one-third of consumers in the survey said that foods they buy for other reasons, such as being organic, GMO-free or vegetarian, also happen to be gluten-free.
Going forward, growing awareness of celiac disease, food allergies and related disorders is likely to lead to more diagnoses of conditions that respond to gluten-free diets, Packaged Facts predicts. The growing number of high-quality, better-tasting gluten-free foods and beverages is leading to growing awareness of these foods and further driving demand.
The 28 percent annual growth rate will moderate a bit in the next five years, Packaged Facts predicts, but nonetheless, the U.S. market for gluten-free foods and beverages is projected to surpass $6.6 billion by 2017.
If you’re considering getting involved in gluten-free, what are the most likely areas for success? For packaged food producers, the report says the best-selling gluten-free categories in grocery, drug and mass retailers are snacks/granola bars, frozen dinners/entrées/pizza, and crackers/salty snacks.
Own a restaurant? Consider adding some gluten-free items to your menu or offering gluten-free variations of popular dishes. Be sure you advertise your options prominently on your menu, signage and in social media—people who live gluten-free are always looking for new places they can eat out, and are eager to share the news when they find more options.
Image by Flickr user foodista blog (Creative Commons)