The Power Behind the Gluten-Free Consumer
Perspectives > Blog Post

The Power Behind the Gluten-Free Consumer

February 5, 2015

Katherine Salisbury

A year ago when I was diagnosed with Celiac disease (put simply, a severe gluten intolerance), two key questions ran through my mind: First, how did I not realize this sooner? And second, where am I going to get gluten-free cupcakes? What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was about to become just one more consumer in an already booming gluten-free marketplace. “Gluten-free” has become a buzzword in today’s world, and current estimates show that there are approximately 44 million gluten-free consumers across the globe.

A year ago when I was diagnosed with Celiac disease (put simply, a severe gluten intolerance), two key questions ran through my mind: First, how did I not realize this sooner? And second, where am I going to get gluten-free cupcakes?

What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was about to become just one more consumer in an already booming gluten-free marketplace. “Gluten-free” has become a buzzword in today’s world, and current estimates show that there are approximately 44 million gluten-free consumers across the globe.

Now, not all of those 44 million have Celiac, but regardless, they do play a large role in the increase of gluten-free products you’ve seen popping up in your local grocery stores. These types of products, which used to be restricted to health stores, are now becoming more mainstream as brands tap into this health potential. Sales of gluten-free products in the U.S. alone are expected to exceed $15 billion by 2016, and that’s something food and beverage brands just can’t ignore.

Let’s take a quick look at the gluten-free consumer. On average:

  • More than half of gluten-free consumers spend 30% or more of their paycheck on groceries
  • Almost 7 in 10 shop at three or more stores per month to find the appropriate products
  • Over 3 in 4 agree that it’s difficult to find tasty gluten-free products

This trend also heavily affects restaurants. In 2014, Americans ordered more than 200 million dishes that were considered gluten- or wheat-free.

So, have big brands really capitalized on this trend? It seems there are niche brands that produce only gluten-free products, but many other mainstream brands are still playing catch up as we’re just beginning to see the addition of “gluten-free” to their menus or offerings.

For example, last month Pizza Hut announced they would begin offering cheese and pepperoni gluten-free pizzas, specifically preparing them in a gluten-free section of their kitchen. This is the first mainstream pizza chain to be certified by the Gluten Intolerance Group. MillerCoors also announced a gluten-free beer that will be added to their production line called Coors Peak Copper Lager, although production will be limited to Seattle and Portland for the foreseeable future.

For brands that think this trend is irrelevant to them, I would suggest they reconsider how they can tailor offerings to this group. Interesting “gluten-free” iterations of products and offerings are popping up everywhere. For example, want a gluten-free partner? Check out glutenfreesingles.com. How about gluten-free makeup for your date? Bare Minerals products have you covered. Most gluten-free consumers see this as an overall lifestyle change, and therefore this mindset expands far beyond the food and beverage landscape.

For those who want to understand the science behind this industry, last year the New Yorker wrote an especially interesting article, which I highly recommend reading. In the meantime, happy eating!

Katherine Salisbury

Manager, Marketing and Brand Development

As Manager of Marketing and Brand Development, Katherine works with Kelton’s core teams to drive new business opportunities and expand ongoing marketing initiatives. She enjoys solving problems...

Up Next