Celiacs – all 2 million of them in America – as well as millions more of the trend-chasing consumers looking for the next "free-from" food product, all want a good, functional slice of bread they can make a sandwich with.
This is normally provided with gluten, a protein found in wheat and related grains like rye and barley, which gives elasticity to dough – helping it to rise, keeping its shape and giving it a chewy texture.
To celiacs, however, gluten proteins triggers an abnormal immune response that causes chronic inflammation of the small intestine’s cells, leading to malabsorption of nutrients as well as gastrointestinal upset. Celiac sufferers also exhibit increased risk of anemia, osteoporosis and miscarriage, among other problems such as liver diseases and cancers of the intestine.1
Top products in the gluten-free world include breads, cereals, waffles, muffins, cakes, cookies, pasta, ready-to-eat entrees and beer (thank God). It's an expensive category all the way across the value chain from suppliers to manufacturers and consumers.
Just how much? A recent Canadian study of 56 products found gluten-free products cost an average $1.71 per unit price per 100 grams, compared to $0.61 for regular prices. On average, gluten-free products are 242% more expensive.2
And you thought organic was at a price premium!
Another study, from New York City, discovered that gluten-free bread and pasta was twice as expensive as their wheat-based counterparts. And, cost was affected more by shopping venue than geographic location. For instance, only about one-third of regular grocery stores carried any gluten-free products, while 41% of upscale markets did so. Even more striking – and obvious – was 94% of health-food stores carried gluten-free products.3
2. Stevens L, Rashid M. Gluten-free and regular foods: a cost comparison. Can J Diet Pract Res. 2008 Fall;69(3):147-50.
3. Lee AR, et al. Economic burden of a gluten-free diet. J Hum Nutr Diet 2007 Oct;20(5):423-30. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17845376