Estimates of the global gluten-free market’s worth vary widely, with many reports coming in at almost $3 billion.
However whatever it’s true value, the gluten-free market is continuing to boom, resulting in a proliferation of innovative products and brands – particularly in the baking sector.
The number of products launched on the international gluten-free platform has now reached more than 12,000 a year; equivalent to more than 6 per cent of total product launches.
Interestingly, despite being one of the product categories strongly associated with wheat and gluten, the actual number of gluten-free bakery launches has risen consistently in recent years, reaching an all-time high of more than 1500 in the year to the end of June 2012.
The recent research shows biscuits were the most popular gluten-free bakery launch, accounting for nearly 44 per cent. Still, we must keep in mind the big picture, where this figure is equivalent to less than 5 per cent of total biscuit launches. Bakery ingredients and mixes took second place with about a quarter of gluten-free bakery introductions recorded, ahead of cakes and pastries and bread and bread products, with about 15 per cent each.
Europe is undoubtedly ahead of the pack, accounting for just under half of all gluten-free bakery launches – covering bread, cakes and pastries, sweet and savoury biscuits, and bakery mixes and ingredients – ahead of North America with just more than 30 per cent and Australasia, where the gluten-free market is relatively well-developed.
In Australia, the market is best illustrated by the fact more than 23 per cent of bakery launches recorded were marketed as gluten-free; a significant figure when compared with 20 per cent in the US and 7 per cent in Europe. It is these regions of the world with their traditionally high-levels of consumption of wheat-based foods and relatively well-developed processed food markets overall that have seen the main thrust of activity in gluten-free foods (particularly bakery lines) reflecting the traditional use of wheat as a basic ingredient, with the consequent opportunities to create gluten-free options.
There are several other leading factors behind the strong growth in Australia, the US and Europe, including improved labeling regulations. And of course, rising awareness of gluten intolerance in the diet has played a massive role the mainstreaming of good-tasting gluten-free products.
The move of gluten-free products out of the specialist dietetic sector and into the mainstream market is best illustrated in the UK market, where the arrival of leading bread brand Warburtons in the gluten-free market in early 2011 was a pivotal moment for the category. This followed the earlier success of the specialist Genius gluten-free bread brand, which aimed to develop the mainstream market with an improved alternative to existing options. Both brands have continued to develop their gluten-free bakery ranges, with Genius introducing a new improved recipe bread in sliced white and sliced brown styles in May 2012, followed by the launch of gluten-free croissants and pains au chocolat in mid 2012. This followed Warburtons’ launch of two style of muffin into its gluten-free bakery range earlier in the year.
The Genius gluten-free bread brand from the UK has also been launched in the US. The 2011 introduction of Genius by Glutino featured two varieties – White and Multigrain Sandwich – and, as in the UK, majored on the quality of the bread and the fact that it could be enjoyed without toasting. The range is to be extended during 2012 with Seeded and Cinnamon Raisin variants. The market in the US is also diversifying into new types of replacement ingredients with the arrival of products such as a Gluten-Free Caraway bread marketed as an alternative to rye bread, lentil crackers as a gluten-free option, and gluten-free toaster pastries.
It has been suggested that up to 10 per cent of the global population may have some form of gluten intolerance or sensitivity, although it remains mostly undiagnosed. With more labeling of gluten-free foods and the growing availability of a range of high quality products with a good sensory profile, the baking sector seems set to take advantage of the huge potential market for sweet and savoury products that are targeted at this particular area.