Gluten-free becomes latest trend

If fat, sodium and partially hydrogenated oils were yesterday's undesirable ingredients, the substance many Americans are currently looking to avoid is gluten. A recent NPD survey found that about a third of U.S. adults say they want to cut down or be free of gluten in their diets. More people are being diagnosed with Celiac disease, but even consumers who have no gluten intolerance are opting to eat foods that are free of gluten because they perceive them as healthier.

As more Americans say no to gluten, the market for gluten-free foods and beverages has continued to grow even faster than anticipated. Sales of the products reached $4.2 billion in 2012, for a compound annual growth rate of 28% over the 2008 to 2012 period, according to a recent Packaged Facts report. Packaged Facts expects U.S. sales of gluten-free foods and beverages to exceed $6.6 billion by 2017.

With so many consumers looking for gluten-free foods, retailers can't afford to not be in that business. Carving out space for a gluten-free section containing crackers; cookies; snack bars, a segment that is showing impressive category growth within gluten-free products; cereals; and beverages lets consumers know that retailers are on trend with products that address their nutritional concerns and allows them to cross-market gluten-free products in other sections of the store to consumers.

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