What is gluten

Nowadays the gluten-free option is a regular occurrence on a menu. Gluten-free breads, gluten-free pizzas and gluten-free pasta options can be seen in the smallest of independents to the largest chains, but what is gluten exactly?

A lot of consumers dare to dodge it, but little actually know what it is.

Gluten is found in grains, such as wheat, barley and rye and keeps the dough bound and gives wheat foods that chewy and delicious texture.

If you’re intolerant to gluten, or if you’re a coeliac, gluten can cause damage to the lining of your digestive tract which can make sufferers seriously ill.

However, only one in four people are buying gluten-free products as a necessity, the rest of the market to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

In fact, only a mere 5% of the population are gluten intolerant and have to buy specialist free-from products when on their weekly shop, so why has the gluten-free category grown exponentially in the last decade and is still – pardon the pun – on the rise?

Here’s a video we made for No.G explaining exactly what gluten is.

The biggest category of free-from buyers are doing so not due to intolerances, but simply because eating them makes them feel like they are living a healthier lifestyle.

According to Kantar Worldpanel, the number of vegans in the UK has tripled in the last decade to over half a million and shows no sign of slowing down.

Consumers are increasingly aware of micro-managing their diets to include certain foods and cut back on others with gluten being one of the main hard-hitters.

Ewa Hudson, head of health and wellness at Euromonitor, said gluten- and lactose-free options had previously been scarce in the convenience market, with consumers forced to prepare almost every meal from scratch. But convenience had now “found its way into free-from and with that, growth opportunities abound,” she said

Large brands are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon, with traditional companies such as Birdseye now offering a host of gluten-free products meaning the sufferer won’t have to miss out.

Convenience is going to be big in the sector as we know a lot of the growth in gluten-free is driven from people buying for lifestyle reasons rather than a specific food allergy” said Emma Cockerill of Holland & Barrett.”

Even supermarket chain Aldi are putting some serious thought into their gluten-free and other free-from ranges: “We’ve expanded our range of free-from products considerably due to growing demand from our customers. In the last year, we’ve launched Hike protein bars, Passions Deli pea snacks, Paleo bars and Specially Selected Gluten Free White Chocolate cookies, as well as free-from ingredients such as coconut flour,” says Tony Baines, joint MD of corporate buying at Aldi.


So, what does the future hold for gluten-free?

Despite the whole free-from category gaining a mass amount of awareness and an expected growth of 43% in the next two years, gluten-free baked goods are at the forefront of the trend and had an expansion of 30% between 2013 – 2015, which has since skyrocketed even further.

As a consumer we’re sure you’ve become increasingly more aware of the free-from icons making their way onto the packets in your shopping baskets. From Marks & Spencer’s own brand of crisps, to Heck sausages, the gluten-free icon can be seen fruitfully.

In fact, 12% of new food products launched in 2015 in the UK carried a gluten-free claim, an increase from just 7% 4 years earlier.

Interestingly, gluten-free consumers prefer locally sourced, fair-trade products that are conscious of animal cruelty being associated with the brand they’re buying from. This can also be seen in the wider picture, away from the free-from industry and across the general food industry in the UK.

With all this in mind, it’s safe to say the future for gluten-free products is looking bright – thanks millennials!


Do you have a gluten-free product that you’d like to market differently? Contact us!