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  5. > Gluten-free foods: Riding a wave of celebrity endorsement and consumer health-consciousness


Sales of gluten-free foods have been strong in recent years, and this strength is only partially explained by the increasing numbers of gluten tolerant consumers buying gluten-free products. This case study looks examines why consumers are avoiding gluten, how the trend is part of the larger move towards greater health consciousness, and what kind of companies are present in the market.

Features and benefits

* This case study examines the gluten-free food market and the reasons behind its growth.
* It looks at why non-medical gluten-free consumption is increasingly popular, and at the increased healthfulness of society as a whole.
* Finally, the case study examines how some companies, including supermarket Wegmans and multinational General Mills, have entered this market.


Large multinationals may find it difficult to enter this market, which is currently dominated by small, independent and, often, local players. Strict regulation is a prohibitive factor, as many multinationals will manufacture gluten-containing products in close proximity. Developing gluten-free products can also be costly and time-intensive.
Boulder Brands has made a number of savvy acquisitions in recent years. In 2011 it paid $66.3m for Glutino, a gluten-free bakery operation. A year later, it spent double that acquiring Udi's, also a gluten-free baking operation. Both companies had sales growth of 50% in 2013.
One study, conducted at Canada’s Dalhousie Medical School, found that gluten free products cost an average of $1.71 per unit, compared to $0.61 for regular products. This means that gluten-free products were an eye-watering 242% more expensive than regular products.

Your key questions answered

* Why has the gluten-free market grown so rapidly in recent years?
* Can large corporations successfully enter the gluten-free market?

Table Of Contents

Gluten-free foods: Riding a wave of celebrity endorsement and consumer health-consciousness
Gluten is found in cereal grains, particularly wheat
The gluten market has experienced strong growth in the UK, US, and Canada
The UK's market is small but growing quickly, with room for product innovation
The US market is surging, with plenty of gluten-free options in shops and restaurants
In Canada, the demand for gluten-free products is rising sharply
Non-medical gluten avoidance has driven the market
Those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance/sensitivity must avoid gluten for medical reasons
Gluten awareness has soared in the last decade, although many misunderstand its properties
Gluten-free foods are more expensive than their regular counterparts
Many believe gluten-free could be a fad although celiac disease is on the rise
The number of people who think gluten-free is a fad is growing, but is still outnumbered by gluten-free proponents
There is evidence that gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are on the rise.
Bread sales are down by half since 1960
Healthfulness is increasingly cited as a purchase driver
China's economic growth has propelled health-consciousness
Wegmans notes that the market is still dominated by smaller brands
It is difficult and expensive for large corporations to go gluten-free
General Mills sees gluten-free products as major drivers of sales
General Mills had slow first half US retail sales in FY2015
Based on Chex's success, GM is focusing on gluten-free cereals to boost sales
The healthy snacks segment has continued to grow, and GM wants to add more gluten-free options
Health consciousness has propelled the gluten-free market
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