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Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Rapidly growing bases of consumers and retailers have gluten on their minds.

With more consumers being diagnosed with celiac disease—which causes problems in digesting gluten, a protein found in wheat and common in such foods as bread, crackers and pasta—a greater array of suppliers and retailers are developing and marketing gluten-free products.

While still a relatively small sector, the gluten-free market is rapidly expanding. Packaged Facts, a Rockville, Md.-based research firm, estimates 2009 gluten-free retail food and beverage sales at $1.73 billion, up 11 percent from 2008.

While the recession is slowing the sector’s annual growth rate—which ranged from 25 to 30 percent from 2005 to 2008 and is projected to reach 9 percent in 2010—the sector is expected to rebound, Package Facts notes.

Indeed, Ed Weiss, Packaged Facts senior market analyst, predicts the growth rate will jump to 16 percent in 2011 and 20 percent in 2012, with sales totaling $2.6 billion.

“There still are a lot of undiagnosed people with celiac disease who will find out they need gluten-free products,” he says.

Other factors that will drive demand is the medically unproven belief by some consumers that a gluten-free diet will help relieve other medical conditions, such as autism, irritated bowel syndrome and multiple sclerosis, Weiss states.

“The demand for gluten-free foods is consumer driven,” he says. “The initial marketers were shoppers with celiac disease who could not find gluten-free products in stores and started developing the items themselves.”

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