Report finds people view gluten-free items as healthy

by Jeff Gelski
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PORT WASHINGTON, NY — About 11 percent of U.S. households have someone who follows a gluten-free diet, but the reason for doing so varies, according to the report “Understanding the Gluten-Free Trend” from The NPD Group, Inc., Port Washington.

Only 25 percent of those people living in a gluten-free household gave celiac disease or gluten sensitivity as the main reason to choose gluten-free products. Other reasons cited were the diet improves digestive health and eliminates toxins from the body.

“There is clearly a segment of the population who avoids gluten for reasons other than gluten sensitivity or disease, providing a greater opportunity for food manufacturers and retailers,” said Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst for The NPD Group. “Food marketers should pay close attention to all of the reasons for a gluten-free diet and connect the reasons with appropriate messages in order to better target your audiences.”

The study involved adult members of NPD’s on-line consumer panel. Respondents were asked an open-ended question about the benefits and downsides of gluten-free foods and beverages.

The most cited benefits for gluten-free products were general healthfulness and the fact people with gluten sensitivities may eat them. The most cited downsides were the high costs of the products and their taste, which was not perceived to be as good as their counterparts that contain gluten.

“Careful consideration of pricing compared to alternatives that contain gluten will be of particular importance to the success of most gluten-free products, especially in the current economy,” Seifer said. “Continued improvement of the taste of gluten-free products will also be important in order to keep consumers purchasing in the gluten-free space.”
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