CHICAGO – Mintel International estimates the market for gluten-free foods has grown 63 percent from 2012-2014, and the firm estimates it will achieve $8.8 billion in sales during 2014.

All gluten-free food segments increased in the past year, though snacks increased the most, according to the market research firm. Gluten-free snacks increased 163 percent from 2012-14, reaching sales of $2.8 billion. Sales increases were mainly due to a 456 percent increase in potato chip sales.

The meats/meat alternatives segment is the second-largest gluten-free food segment in terms of sales, reaching $1.6 billion in 2014, a 14 percent increase from 2012-14. The bread products and cereals segment saw gains of 43 percent during that same time period and is set to reach $1.3 billion this year. Bread and cereal are ripe for gluten-free growth, Mintel said, with only 1 percent of the overall segment termed gluten-free.

“Overall, the gluten-free food market continues to thrive off those who must maintain a gluten-free diet for medical reasons, as well as those who perceive gluten-free foods to be healthier or more natural,” said Amanda Topper, a food analyst at Mintel. “The category will continue to grow in the near term, especially as FDA regulations make it easier for consumers to purchase gluten-free products and trust the manufacturers who make them. Despite strong growth over the last few years, there is still innovation opportunity, especially in food segments that typically contain gluten.”

The market for gluten-free products may be changing, according to Mintel. For example, 33 percent of consumers surveyed in 2013 agreed that “gluten-free diets are a fad.” The number increased to 44 percent of Americans in 2014. However, that has not slowed the segment’s popularity with 22 percent of Americans saying they currently follow a gluten-free diet, compared to 15 percent in 2013.

“Gluten-free products appeal to a wide audience.” Topper said. “Forty-one per cent of US adults agree they are beneficial for everyone, not only those with a gluten allergy, intolerance or sensitivity. In response, food manufacturers offering either gluten-free alternatives or existing products with a gluten-free label have increased dramatically over the last several years.”