Datamonitor advises caution in gluten-free growth

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Gluten-free diet

Germany continues to lead strong growth in the European market for gluten-free products, finds a new report by Datamonitor, although the analyst notes that manufacturers must approach the market with caution in order to ensure continued success.

The Future of Gluten-Free: Consumer Insight and Product Opportunities ​estimates that the global gluten-free market will reach $4.3bn over the next five years, marking a $1.2bn growth.

However, despite the strong growth forecasts, Datamonitor says food manufacturers need to tread carefully to avoid the same fate as the low/no-carb market.

Don’t lose sight of the celiacs…

Much of the recent growth in the market has been a result of many consumers misdiagnosing themselves as suffering from celiac disease, or choosing gluten-free to address associated symptoms, says analyst Mark Whalley. In addition, gluten-free has become somewhat of a ‘vogue’ diet by its association with some celebrities, such as Victoria Beckham, Liz Hurley and Carol Vorderman.

However, this approach risks placing gluten free in the realm of a diet fad – which could negatively impact long-term growth.

“In fact there are already signs that the gluten-free market may plateau in the future, as the growth we predict over the next five years is somewhat less than what we’ve seen for the last five years,”​ says Whalley.

“One hurdle brands face is making sure the taste of gluten-free products is appealing. Manufactures need to adopt a more holistic approach ensuring they communicate the wider benefits of gluten-free foods rather than relying on what is excluded from the products,”​ he says.

“Therefore brands should focus on appealing to a broader audience to strengthen the long term prospects of gluten-free food. However, they cannot lose sight of the fact that core consumers of the products will always be celiacs, so relying on consumers outside of this demographic in the long-term will prove to be a very risky strategy.”

Market break-down

According to the new report, per capita spend on gluten-free products is currently highest in the US, but future growth is stronger in other countries.

Between 2004 and 2007, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of the gluten-free market was just over 11 per cent in Germany, followed closely behind by the UK at 10.4 percent. CAGR in Spain was 8.3 percent, followed by France, Sweden and Italy at 8, 6.8 and 5.9 per cent respectively. CAGR in the US market during the period was 5.6 per cent.

“In many markets, the predicted growth to 2014 is above that of the general food and beverage industries, albeit from a low base in many instances. Becoming established in this kind of niche category could prove lucrative at a time when many companies are struggling to deal with arresting revenue growth during difficult economic times,”​ writes Datamonitor.

The US is the most established gluten-free market, and currently the only one where sales exceed $1bn annually, reflecting the size of the population and wider product penetration, says the analyst.

“By contrast, the gluten-free market is comparatively small in a number of other regions, particularly Asia Pacific. In Japan, for example, per capita spend is below that of even Russia, despite consumers here showing a willingness to embrace healthy/functional products.”

This market therefore potentially represents an opportunity for development, says Datamonitor, although it is currently overshadowed by other food health or safety topics such as organic, natural, allergen-free, lactose-intolerance, low fat and low cholesterol.

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