Jun 1, 2011

Posted by in Business, Health, Nutrition | 0 Comments

The Gluten-Free Opportunity


Imagine yourself in your kitchen. It’s Saturday morning, and you’re sitting at the table finishing up your shopping list. You peruse the items one last time. Fruits and vegetables? Check. Lean chicken breasts? Check. Cardboard and chalky rice cakes? Check. You’re ready to go!

Well, the items are mostly appetizing, right? The fact is that just five years ago, limited gluten-free options meant that the few food choices that were available left plenty to be desired in the taste department. Thankfully, times have changed. The 2009 “Gluten-Free Food and Beverage Market Report” put out by “Packaged Facts” showed that between 2004 and 2009, sales of U.S. gluten-free foods grew at a 28% compound annual growth rate. During that same period, annual retail sales increased from $560 million to $1.56 billion.

Gluten, of course, is the collective name for proteins that are found in the grains wheat, rye and barley. The majority of those individuals who adhere to a gluten-free diet are those with Celiac disease-an inherited, autoimmune disorder in which gluten damages the small intestine. Studies indicate that 1 in every 100 people worldwide (including about 3 million Americans) suffer from Celiac disease. Others who avoid gluten are those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, those with various types of wheat allergies, and individuals with multiple sclerosis and irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. Studies and anecdotal reports indicate that a gluten-free diet may even help children suffering from various forms of autism and ADHD to communicate more effectively.


Today, gluten-free grains, flours, starches and seeds are used to create breads, muffins, bagels, cereals, pastas, pizza, soups, snack foods and even beer and liquor. And there’s more where that came from. Nowadays, even mainstream companies are creating glutenfree varieties of their products. Without question, it’s a development that comes as a welcome addition to those yearning for healthy options.

In 2008, an “Understanding Gluten-Free Shoppers” survey showed that 55% of those surveyed indicated that they spent as much as 30% of their budget on gluten-free items. As the amount of appetizing gluten-free food options increases, the number of its adherents is bound to go up as well. According to several industry estimates, the gluten-free category will continue to experience double-digit growth every year, with sales in 2012 expected to reach more than $2.6 billion.

A quick search of the Internet will turn up dozens of websites and blogs dedicated to making gluten-free living not just manageable, but downright tasty. One example is “Gluten-Free Living,” the nation’s leading gluten-free diet magazine for more than a decade. The magazine recently announced that it was kicking off “National Celiac Disease Awareness Month” (May) with the launch of their new, information-rich online and social network offerings. You can check them out at GlutenFreeLiving.com. Another great resource is Livingwithout.com, an online magazine for people with food allergies and sensitivities. Great resources abound!

As with any emerging market, there are “issues” with a gluten-free diet. One of the chief concerns of gluten-free shoppers is the threat of cross-contamination. no_gluten_symbolA food item that does not contain gluten may still contain trace elements. As an example, consider that some conveyor belts in grocery items’ production facilities may be dusted with gluten products to prevent the foods from sticking during processing. “Natural Flavoring” is also suspected to contain gluten. This type of gluten contamination may not be labeled.

In April, Huffington Post columnist and Celiac disease sufferer Sasha Cagan wrote, “We have been patiently waiting for the FDA to pass a gluten labeling law while Brazil, the European Union, and Australia acted years ago.” Cagan also notes that food manufacturers are not required to disclose whether a product contains gluten. They may also, she writes, “use gluten as a thickening agent in surprising foods like ice cream and salad dressing.” Suffice it to say, vigilance is always the order of the day.

Without question, anyone who is on a gluten-free diet pays close attention to their health. By and large, the industry does an exceptional job of ensuring that these customers receive the very best of what’s available. The market is becoming more sizable and more discerning, and manufacturers are following suit.


There is another area of note for both consumers and distributors of gluten-free foods. The standard gluten-free diet does not meet the recommended intake for fiber, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate, iron, or calcium. Whole foods such as red meat, fish and vegetables are an excellent source of many needed nutrients. However, supplements can and should also be considered as another option.

Responsiveness to customers’ needs is always what drives business forward. In today’s marketplace, gluten-free is opportunity rich. Contact a Europa sales representative for more information on glutenfree products, or read on for a list of highlighted gluten-free products. Of course, you can also visit us online at EuropaSports.com.


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