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Monday, October 29, 2012

The Gluten-Free Market: “I’ll Have What She’s Having”

What does the consumer of gluten-free foods and beverages want?  Well, what does any grocery shopper want from foods and beverages?  Good taste, affordability, convenience, and nutritional value.  (Usually in that order.)

Product development in the gluten-free market initially focused on replicating the properties of foods that are traditionally wheat-based.  Then the emphasis shifted to the development of foods that people who live gluten-free actually want to eat.  Indeed, product quality has improved measurably in the past several years, as evidenced by Packaged Facts’ proprietary surveys.

Members of the gluten-free population demand the same respect and attention given to mainstream consumers in other ways, too:  foods and beverages that resemble their standard counterparts in terms of taste, texture, nutrition, range, variety, availability, convenience, novelty, packaging, shelf placement, and, ideally, price.  The word that comes up again and again to describe how gluten-free consumers want to be treated is “normal.”

Marketers have addressed these demands from the inside (ingredients) out (packaging).

To make up for the properties lost when gluten is eliminated from a recipe, gluten-free formulations have often included a half-dozen or more different kinds of starches as well as added fats, sugars, and salt.  Not exactly the top five ingredients advocated by Michael Pollan and his fellow foodies.  In addition, gluten-free diets are often lacking in dietary fiber and B vitamins, among other nutrients. 
Our new report on gluten-free foods and beverages charts an increase in new gluten-free products that contain ingredients to address such deficiencies.  In addition, convenience foods like snack bars and microwavable meals are proliferating, and recent product introductions include foods and beverages that cater to culinary adventurers and shoppers with sophisticated palates.  Finally, product packaging is being redesigned and updated so the gluten-free customer doesn’t feel “weird” at the checkout counter.

Gluten-free consumers routinely shop around until they find something they like.  When they do find something they like, these consumers are extremely brand loyal.  Not to say fanatic--get between a gluten-freer and her or his favorite Udi's product at extreme peril. And gluten-freers don’t hesitate to share their opinions and reviews with other gluten-freers, or with anyone, for that matter.  On blogs, for example.

For more information about our full report:

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