The booming gluten-free category offers opportunities for retailers and solutions for customers.
The mainstream media has been reporting on the benefits of a gluten-free diet for sometime now. Hundreds of new gluten-free products were launched in 2014. Fortunately, for those who have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) and must follow a gluten-free diet, growth will continue in the gluten-free marketplace in 2015, as well as the publishing of compelling new research.
According to a new report on gluten-free foods by Packaged Facts, the category reached $973 million in sales in 2014, with a compound annual growth rate of 34 percent since 2010. By 2019, the gluten-free market is expected to reach $2 billion in sales.
The recent jump is fueled by a number of factors, including rising consumer health concerns and the positive perception of gluten-free foods. Many retailers embraced the movement by introducing gluten-free varieties of private-label brands in addition to increasing their overall selection of gluten-free foods. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) move to define gluten-free in 2014 is also expected to contribute to growth, as manufacturers now have a standard to follow.
Furthermore, according to Health.com, a recent poll found that nearly 30 percent of U.S. adults say they’re trying to go gluten free. Interestingly, Googling the term generates more than 95 million results. That said, gluten may not be the only cause of celiac disease. A recent study from researchers at Columbia University concluded that other wheat proteins other than gluten may also trigger problematic symptoms in people with celiac disease. While gluten is the primary type of protein in wheat, a substantial number of study subjects with celiac disease had an immune reaction to five groups of non-gluten proteins. Nevertheless, more studies need to be done when it comes to celiac disease and its causes.
Given the profound interest in gluten-free products and the fact this is no fleeting trend, savvy natural products retailers are dedicating increased shelf space to accommodate these products. GlutenFree.com believes we’ll be seeing a lot of the following foods on store shelves in 2015:
Ancient Grains: These grains, including millet, amaranth, quinoa, flax and chia, will become increasingly popular in gluten-free diets in the coming year and beyond.
Sprouted Grains: May provide additional nutritional benefits over non-sprouted grains. Many consumers, especially those with celiac disease and NCGS, have incorporated sprouted grains as a way to address digestive health challenges.
Fermented Foods: These foods contain live cultures to promote healthy gut flora. Fermented foods include, yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, kefir and tempeh. Although typically naturally gluten-free, some of these foods may contain gluten, so retail staff must to be prepared to help their customers to differentiate between fermented foods that are gluten free and fermented foods that are not.
The interest in gluten-free foods is undisputable. Nonetheless, the millions of U.S adults transitioning to this lifestyle need to be aware that eating a gluten-free diet may cause deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals. And smart retailers will understand this and counsel their customers accordingly. Often, people will fall short of daily recommendations, in part, because gluten-free foods often aren’t supplemented with extra nutrients. Initially, people should undergo comprehensive testing to ascertain nutrient levels before determining a supplement regimen. This dietary supplement regimen will then need to address any dietary shortcomings a gluten-free diet may create. That said, there are certain nutrients people tend to lack when on a gluten-free diet. Retailers need to be aware of the following nutrients, among others, and make recommendations when needed:
Calcium: Found in dairy products, your customers with gluten sensitivities still need to be cognizant of possible lactose intolerance or additional food sensitivity. That said, studies strongly indicate that people with celiac disease don’t get the recommended levels of calcium in their diets. Nonetheless, this doesn’t necessarily mean a gluten-free diet leads to calcium deficiencies. In fact, in the few studies that have been conducted, there were no calcium deficiencies in people following a gluten-free diet. Still, calcium formulas are a key to building strong bones. And osteoporosis is a major risk for people with celiac disease. So, retailers are wise to stock a wide range of calcium formulas. If you eat dairy, there are numerous options for calcium-rich milk products. If you avoid dairy, calcium-rich foods include tofu or canned fish.
Folic Acid: You may be familiar with folic acid’s role in preventing birth defects. Everyone needs sufficient amounts of folic acid to help make new cells. Foods high in folic acid include spinach, asparagus and Brussel sprouts.
Iron: Anemia is linked to low iron and is also a common symptom of celiac disease. In fact, people diagnosed as anemic may have suffered worse damage to their small intestine than people whose primary celiac symptom was diarrhea. Retailers must be aware of this and recommend iron supplements. Foods high in iron include turkey, beef, soybeans and legumes.
Vitamin B6: Helps to fight off infections, maintain normal nerve function, and carry oxygen throughout the body. Vitamin B6 also keeps blood sugar within normal limits. Studies have shown that many people with celiac disease and following a gluten-free diet are low in vitamin B6. Foods with vitamin B6 include chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans). There is also significant B6 in tuna, salmon, chicken breast and turkey. One medium banana has 20 percent of the vitamin B6 you need each day.
Vitamin B12: Helps to maintain nerve and blood cells. Those deficient in B12 experience constant fatigue. Research indicates people with celiac disease don’t get enough of vitamin B12 in their diets, thus the need for supplements. Meat, fish and dairy products are the best food sources of vitamin B12, which is why vegetarians and vegans often are more deficient.
Vitamin D: Produced when exposed to the sun, vitamin D also can be found in fortified dairy and conventional cereal products. Supplementing with vitamin D is especially important as studies indicate that people with celiac disease are especially prone to vitamin D deficiencies. Few foods naturally contain vitamin D. However, cold-water fish, including swordfish and sockeye salmon, contain substantial amounts. An egg yolk contains about 10 percent of the vitamin D you need each day.
Gluten free will soon be a multi-billion dollar category. Smart retailers must stay abreast of emerging natural solutions for celiac disease and the new, innovative, gluten-free products on the market. In addition, as some customers with celiac disease remain symptomatic despite strict adherence to a gluten-free diet, it is important for retail staff to understand alternate dietary strategies and make appropriate recommendations to their customers. VR
Mark Becker is an account manager for Vivion, a raw materials distributor, based in Vernon, CA. He has worked as a natural products sales and marketing executive for 15 years. Becker has written more than 300 articles and has hosted or been a guest on more than 500 radio shows. He obtained a bachelor’s in journalism from Long Beach State University and did his master’s work in communications at Cal State Fullerton. For almost 30 years he has participated in numerous endurance events, including more than 150 triathlons of Olympic distance or longer, 102 marathons and numerous other events including ultramarathons and rough water swims from Alcatraz to the mainland. He has relied on a comprehensive dietary supplement and homeopathic regimen to support his athletic, professional and personal endeavors. Follow Mark Becker on Facebook at Facebook.com/marklbecker and on twitter at Twitter.com/becker_mark. For more information, access www.vivioninc.com or www.EnergyatLast.com.