2023 trends and opportunities in gluten-free – article2023 trends and opportunities in gluten-free – article
As consumer interests change and shift, the gluten-free market continues to grow at a strong pace. Here’s a look at what’s driving the latest expansion in this category.
February 28, 2023
Sponsored by Gluten Intolerance Group
The Gluten-Free Market
Reporting a market value of $5.9 billion in 2021, compared to $2.5 billion in 2010, the gluten-free market is strong and growing fast according to Grandview Research, who projects a compound annual growth rate of 9.8% for the category from 2022 to 2030. This is in keeping with projections from data company Statista, who anticipates global growth reaching 14 billion by 2032. Who is the gluten-free consumer? Autoimmune celiac disease affects 1% of the population and non-celiac gluten sensitivity is up to 13%, while up to 51% of consumers are choosing to eat gluten-free for other reasons. Several consumer lifestyles, food trends and choices are now contributing to this category’s value and ongoing growth. Still, as this growth continues, a large part of this category’s value lies in the steadfast goal that gluten-free foods continue to uphold their high standards of safety and labeling to ensure that gluten-free products are safe for everyone enjoying them.
The search for overall wellbeing
Consumers are on a quest for proper whole-food balanced nutrition, away from the highly processed, empty-calorie foods that dominated the latter half of the past century. In fact, “holistic health and wellbeing” was one of the top three cultural forces identified in the NEXT and Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) “2022 Trends and Innovation” report. Over the past few years’, The Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) reports that it has witnessed a transition as consumers’ attitudes towards eating have shifted to a heightened awareness and desire for the use of products that promote health and wellness. As such, many consumers are looking to gluten-free foods to nourish themselves and build a stable and resilient foundation for a life of vitality.
In NBJ’s “Ways of Eating” report, also published in 2022, the top two consumer motivations around eating were noted as, “I eat to feel good” and “I eat to optimize my physical health.” This report outlined that the number of consumers who believe restricting or eliminating gluten affects their overall wellness rose 11% since a 2013 New Hope Network Segmentation Study that addressed the same question—an encouraging increase for the market.
Consumer diet trends
Shoppers are more educated about their own nutrition and what works for their bodies and lifestyle, picking and choosing to eat elements of many diets for their health and customizing their food choices to suit their personal needs and preferences. Whether they are focused on plant-based eating, low- to no-sugar, utilizing aspects of a grain-free diet or simply looking to eat more whole foods, fruits and vegetables, the aim is to optimize ways to fuel themselves, help them to be their best and meet their lifestyle needs.
Although traditionally a key draw has been consumers hoping to find relief for digestion and GI challenges, gluten-free is now drawing shoppers for many reasons. In fact, according to GIG research, up to 16% of shoppers follow a looser restriction of gluten-containing foods for other reasons like perceived health benefits and alleviation of negative symptoms. Some areas of focus include weight management, sleep, rest and improving memory, mood and energy levels. Other consumers choose this diet to try to reduce inflammation or pain from headaches and migraines. Whatever the reason for focusing on gluten-free, one thing is clear—consumers are listening to their bodies and eating in a way that supports them.
Growth Opportunities for Gluten-Free
Thanks to this ongoing demand, the market for gluten-free goods is expanding far beyond meeting the needs of just those with a medical need to avoid gluten. And whether consumers are fully restricting gluten or just dabbling in healthier options, there remains opportunities in the marketplace to provide options for everyone.
Overall, gluten-free foods in frozen, grocery and refrigerated categories are growing at 8.9%, per SPINS 2021-22 data. They report top performers as refrigerated yogurt and plant-based yogurts ($6B), chips, pretzels and snacks ($5.51B) and frozen/refrigerated meat, poultry and seafood at $5.27 billion. Gluten-free options are becoming more accessible, expanding into every category from frozen and snack foods to candy and sauces
Data from the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) and the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) found that cooking, baking and kitchen staples are leading the pack in regard to gluten-free trends. This can be seen in the shelf-stable pasta aisles where, according to SPINS 2021-2022 data, product offerings continue to expand to include a variety of gluten-free options. This market is growing at 12.1% with $319.65M in total sales.
Gluten-free, plant-forward pasta alternatives are often made using grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, chickpeas, cassava coconut and more, offering nutrition profiles more robust than traditional wheat options. Baking mixes and flours are also surging, with many of the same ingredients in pastas being utilized here as well.
Many of the trends in gluten-free cooking and baking staples also follow the growth in plant-based product offerings. The 2022 NBJ “Trend and Innovation” report found that the year’s top trend in 2022 was “eat more plants.” Coming in at number three was “plant protein,” both emphasizing a consumer desire for more plant-based options in the marketplace. With plant-based remaining strong, there continues to be plenty of opportunity for more players and innovation. Take plant-based and gluten-free meats, notably chicken, pork and turkey alternatives and meatless jerky, which are all growing in popularity, as an example. The burgeoning plant-based strips & chunks sector, which replicates chicken, grew 313% year over year according to SPINS, while the $21.8 million plant-based grounds (a pork alternative) grew 136%.
Consumers, no matter their dietary needs, also want pleasure and indulgence in their food even when they are trying to achieve broader health goals. This trend is outlined in the NBJ 2022 “Ways of Eating” report, which highlights the importance of simplifying things for consumers and offering solutions that meet their needs. The market is seeing gluten-free convenience items and frozen foods become more accessible to those with dietary restrictions: convenience, pleasure and transparency cannot be ignored when innovating. An example of this growth can be evidenced in a 15.7% increase in frozen breakfast entrees and 232.8% increase in frozen gluten-free pancake offerings as reported by SPINS. There are few categories now that gluten-free hasn’t penetrated.
As the gluten-free market grows, there will continue to be innovation in ingredients and product offerings. To learn more about growth and opportunities in this sector, be sure to tune into GIG’s education session at Expo West 2023 to dive further into these trends with SPINS, on Thursday, March 9 from 3:30pm to 5pm in Platinum, Ballroom 5.
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