The market for gluten-free children’s food will be a big area for growth, predicts market research firm Mintel – but mainstream brands are yet to capitalize on the opportunity.
More parents are introducing their babies to food via a special diet, creating a demand for gluten-free baby products like porridge and biscuits. Across Europe, 42% of all new baby food products launched are labelled as gluten-free, according to Mintel GNPD data - a trend it found was already starting to translate into a market for gluten-free children’s food.
Yannick Troalen, consultant at Mintel, said it was this kids' market that held huge promise for future growth.
“More and more babies and toddlers are used to gluten-free, and mums believe that gluten-free is a better diet for their kids,” he told attendees at Limagrain's Gluten-Free seminar, held last week in France.
While some babies were diagnosed celiac, he explained the demand was also being fueled by an increased consciousness of allergens among many parents.
“The interesting thing with the rise of gluten-free baby foods is that once the mum buys gluten-free products, she might want to stick with this diet if the baby is healthy.
“When the baby grows up and switches to more conventional foods, perhaps parents will be looking for gluten-free alternatives [to baby food]. We believe there will be opportunities in the future for kids’ brands, and gluten-free products targeting kids.”
Kids' gluten-free on the rise
In 2013, 10.7% of children’s food in Europe claimed to be gluten-free, compared to 5.3% in 2010 (Mintel GNPD).
“When it comes to kids’ food in Europe, the availability of products targeting kids is increasing: it has doubled over the last three to four years,” Troalen said. “There are more and more options for kids.”
“Gluten-free specialists were the first to launch kids’ ranges. Mainstream brands have yet to capitalize on this opportunity.”
One product launch from a big brand was Kellogg’s gluten-free variety of Rice Krispies in the US. The product was made from whole-grain brown rice but without barley malt, which is the source of gluten in original Rice Krispies, and was produced in a separate facility. The product generated $9.2m in its first two years.
Winning over the parents
If one member of a household ate gluten-free foods, the rest of the family was likely to turn to the same products. “Winning over the mother means the entire family is likely to eat and drink the same free-from brand,” Troalen said.
People with celiac disease have to eat gluten-free products, as they react to the gluten in foods such as wheat, rye, barley and spelt. In Europe, a product claiming to be gluten-free must not exceed gluten of 20 mg/kg.
A separate category of consumers suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity, where they have a gluten intolerance (18m Americans have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, which is six times as many as those with celiac disease).
Other consumers eat gluten-free products because they deem them to be healthier or want to avoid potential allergens.