According to a series of focus groups on consumer attitudes in four European countries – France, Italy, Spain and the UK – there is “untapped potential” for gluten-free food manufacturers to develop products with additional nutritional benefits.
The survey, carried out by DuPont Nutrition and Health, concluded “healthy living” is already the main driver of gluten-free sales in these markets.
“The consumer survey focused on occasional consumers of gluten-free products as a lifestyle choice rather than medical need,” Lena Hamann, strategic marketing manager, bakery EMEA, DuPont Nutrition & Health, told FoodNavigator.
However, Hamann suggested, by adding further nutritional benefits to gluten-free products this health halo is re-enforced.
“Gluten-free products are perceived as healthier options. In addition to gluten-free, consumers are looking for improved nutritional profile and simplified ingredient declarations. Other claims are equally important. However the level of importance varies from one country to another and amongst the differing demographic group throughout the survey.”
In particular, consumers were interested in claims that products are high fiber, free from added preservatives, low in saturated fats, carbs and calories, DuPont concluded.
“[These] reinforced the positive health alternative of gluten free products,” Hamann said. “Food producers should look to health and nutrition fortification of gluten-free products.”
This conclusion is supported by data from Mintel, showing 44% of gluten-free consumers in the UK expect the products they buy to be high in fibre.
“The trend is reflected throughout Europe. From 2014 to 2016, 25% of European gluten-free breads were labelled with an added fiber or high fiber claim.”
Taste and texture remains key
While there is scope for the food industry to increase the appeal of gluten-free products through the addition of health claims, DuPont insisted that the familiar challenge of delivering gluten-free bakery products that have a similar texture to conventional items remains front-of-mind for consumers.
“Overall the survey reinforced our understanding that taste and texture are still the consumers main areas of improvement in relation to gluten-free products,” Hamann noted.
DuPont is continuing to invest in innovation to improve gluten-free taste and texture solutions. The company said it is focused on delivering customized gluten-free solutions designed for individual customer needs.
The ingredients manufacturer said it is currently exploring production parameters and ingredients combinations as a way to improve sensory properties such as taste, texture and freshness at its bakery applications centre.