Survey: Why Do Consumers Choose Gluten-Free?


We've tackled this topic before: is gluten-free really better for you? As the trend toward gluten-free evolves, you probably won't hear the end of it any time soon.

It's always interesting to know why consumers do what they do, and we came across a recent survey that asks the question: Are most people going gluten-free because they have a medical need to do so? Or are they just making a lifestyle choice? And if so, why?

DSM Food Specialties, a leading global supplier of food enzymes, cultures, bio-preservation and health ingredients to the food industry. released the survey during the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition this past June. Here are some of the findings:

  • 75% of gluten-free bread consumers also eat regular breads

  • 56% of respondents eat mostly gluten-free bread, 25% mostly consume other breads and only 19% exclusively consume gluten-free bread.

  • 31% of respondents say they went gluten-free as a lifestyle choice, mainly for its perceived health benefits and to lose weight

  • 15% choose gluten-free because it is easier to digest

  • only 2% of the population suffers from Celiac disease

A majority (74%) said they would probably consider buying bread with lower levels of gluten in it.

“This demonstrates that gluten-free bread competes with regular bread on market shelves, which signifies an opportunity for the category to gain market share from ordinary bread,” the DSM report concluded.

Ok, so gluten-free products are gaining popularity with consumers. What can we glean from this survey? For us, the most interesting factoids here are the first two: the vast majority of GF consumers are not exclusively gluten-free. Are you getting health benefits of gluten-free foods if you are also eating gluten foods? For most people choosing GF products, the choice is one based on a perception of healthiness rather than a medical necessity. But, the understanding of the health benefits may be a bit unclear.

We would like to see better education about how gluten-free foods benefit people, and who exactly needs to go gluten-free. And, if you choose to make this lifestyle choice, how do you do it in order to get the benefits? Considering the fact that GF foods cost about 1/3 to 1/2 more than regular foods, it's a choice that could be costly to the average consumer. So, knowing if the choice is right for you is important.

Over the next three years, gluten-free bread sales are expected to rise by 54% in the United States. Choice or necessity? What do you think about the gluten-free movement?

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