CHICAGO — Today’s food marketing landscape may seem dominated by plant-based claims, but that doesn’t mean gluten-free innovation and claims have waned. Products promoting the absence of gluten are an expected option in nearly every aisle of the supermarket, much like organic and products that are free from artificial ingredients.
Because there are many hidden sources of gluten in a formulator’s ingredient toolbox, e.g., colors, flavors, shortenings, seasonings, etc., marketers prioritize sourcing certified gluten-free ingredients to make label claims for the approximate 1% of Americans who have celiac disease. That’s about three million consumers who must eliminate all gluten from their diet.
There are others who have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, as well as a growing number of consumers — an estimated 30% of US adults, according to The NPD Group — who are trying to reduce or eliminate gluten from their diet as they believe it improves overall health. Perceived benefits include improved cholesterol levels and digestion, along with increased energy and weight loss.
“Consumer packaged goods manufacturers can benefit from this trend,” said Darren Seifer, executive director, food and beverage industry analyst with The NPD Group, Port Washington, NY. “Appropriately labeling a product as gluten-free can remove barriers to usage for consumers with gluten issues or those who wish to cut down on its consumption. Even if the product naturally lacks gluten, consumers might not know all the sources of gluten, and the label would quickly remove any doubt.”
Eliminating gluten from the diet means avoiding all foods and beverages made directly or indirectly with sources of gluten, namely wheat and a range of other grains, including barley and rye. Common gluten-free flours include those made with rice and tapioca, both of which have a bland, neutral flavor and color. Corn flours are also inherently gluten-free. Corn has a short texture, which produces a crumbly finished product that only works in certain applications.