A decade after the gluten-free trend started in retail, demand for gluten-free products continues to grow. U.S. sales of products labeled gluten-free is expected to top $2 billion by 2019 and is still a growth industry, currently standing at about $1 billion in sales annually. Despite skeptics who've said this market is a "bubble."
Health experts and food companies have questioned how long the gluten-free market could last. The number of people diagnosed as celiac is relatively low by percentage of population and those with an intolerance are often misdiagnosed or self-diagnosing to come to that conclusion. Yet the expected bubble of gluten-free retail has not burst, but continues to grow. Making some wonder if it's a bubble at all.
There are essentially two parts to the gluten-free consumer market as a whole.
The two parts include those who have a medical reason for avoiding gluten, such as those diagnosed as celiac or with a known intolerance. The other group are those who believe that avoiding gluten makes them healthier.
Demand lately has shifted from gluten-free goodies and treats towards gluten-free everyday products including pastas and bread. This trend shows, to some, that the fad is not really a fad, but may have staying power. If those eating gluten-free diets are willing to truly go gluten-free, the thought process goes, they're likely committed to it in a way that will not change.
As the growth of staple items that are gluten-free continues, this "base buyer" is more likely to be a long-term gluten-free buyer. That's the conclusion of industry experts who are now finding that this may not be the fad they once believed it to be.