Aside from the US and UK, where the gluten-free category is witnessing strong growth, there are a number of other gluten free markets look likely to develop elsewhere over the coming years.
According to Dr Schär's Emma Herring, there is an increasing globalisation of many leading market suppliers in the gluten-free category. "In the last three years, the international reach of [our] business has grown significantly… we export across the world from Australia to Belarus and have expanded into Eastern Europe and Spain."
At the same time, UK free-from specialist Genius Foods is also expanding its presence throughout Europe – in 2012, for example, it signed a deal to stock Carrefour's Spanish stores with gluten free bread, pizza and pastries. And, earlier this month, it won its first listing in the Netherlands.
While the US and the UK are at the forefront of growth in gluten-free, markets including Germany, Australia and Canada are also seeing demand increase.
Germany has western Europe's largest market for gluten free foods, with sales worth in the region of EUR250m (US$329.2m) in 2012. Sales have risen by almost a fifth compared with 2010, since German consumers remain receptive towards health-oriented foods. It is significant to note that many gluten-free foods frequently carry other health benefits, with lactose-free one example.
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Gluten-free products are widespread throughout Germany's retail and foodservice industries, and are well-represented in own label. The size and continued growth of the German sector is partly due to the success of Dr Schär's Glutano brand, which is the market leader and present in sectors such as bakery foods, pasta, biscuits and breakfast cereals.
At almost EUR200m, sales of gluten-free foods are also sizeable in Italy. Up to 500,000 consumers are thought to be gluten intolerant, although this still represents less than 1% of the Italian population. One underlying reason for Italy's sizeable market is the fact that gluten-free foods are sold extensively throughout many retail channels, including supermarkets, pharmacies and drugstores.
The Italian market is fairly distinctive in that pasta accounts for over 30% total of sales. At 26 kg, per capita consumption of pasta in Italy remains the world's highest, and market leader Barilla sells several gluten-free varieties. Bread and biscuits account for much of the remaining 70% of the Italian market.
Compared with the UK, Germany and Italy, sales of gluten-free foods are on the low side in both France and Spain. Both markets are worth around EUR50m. At present, availability of gluten-free foods in France remains limited, with sales largely confined to health and natural food stores. However, major French supermarket groups such as Casino are now entering the market.
Limited markets exist in the Benelux and Scandinavian countries. Swedish bakery company Fria supplies gluten-free products such as bread, rolls, cakes and muffins to a number of other western European countries, as well as its domestic market. The Swedish market is Scandinavia's largest, worth approximately US$55m.
A sudden spike in gluten intolerance was witnessed among Swedish babies and toddlers 20 or so years ago. This was later attributed to parents suddenly introducing large quantities of gluten into their childrens' diets, after holding off for up to six months. The Swedish example led to speculation that a sudden introduction of gluten into the diet can increase the risk of developing coeliac disease.
Like its southern neighbour, gluten-free foods are also increasing in popularity in Canada. The Canadian market is now worth between US$40m and $50m per annum, having grown as a result of the rising number of people diagnosed with coeliac disease. An estimated 7m Canadians are now thought to regularly buy gluten-free foods.
As yet, many of Canada's food manufacturers and retailers have yet to embrace the gluten-free trend to a significant extent. However, there are signs this situation is changing, as more companies become alert to the opportunities presenting themselves. PepsiCo, for example, now certifies the potato crisps in its Lay's range as gluten-free. Meanwhile, food retailer Loblaw entered the gluten-free market towards the end of 2012 with the launch of new bakery products. The company has planned further activity for 2013, targeting sectors such as pasta.
Among Asia-Pacific countries, Australia represents one of the region's largest markets. Coeliac disease is thought to affect more than 1% of the Australian population, although it is possible that as many of 80% of these people are undiagnosed. This means more than 150,000 Australians may suffer from coeliac disease, but are as yet unaware of this fact.
Like the UK, Australia has an organisation dedicated to supporting those with coeliac disease. Coeliac Australia aims "to encourage and research towards a cure or other ethical forms of treatment for coeliac disease". Recent research from the organisation indicates 10% of the population are now following a gluten-free diet, while Datamonitor information indicates 18% of Australians are avoiding certain foods due to perceived allergies and intolerances.
This indicates a sizeable potential market exists in Australia. At present, the market is worth approximately US$90m, although sales are expected to increase by almost US$100m by the middle of the current decade as the consumer base expands. Some of the more dynamic sectors of the Australian market include biscuits/cookies, savoury snacks and meat products, where NPD levels have all been high.
An interesting development to have taken place in Australia was the recent launch of GlutenSwitch, a new mobile phone app. This is a new filter for the FoodSwitch app developed by Bupa and The George Institute, and enables gluten-intolerant consumers to make healthy food choices. By scanning the barcodes of packaged foods with smartphones, GlutenSwitch provides users with an instant indication on whether the product contains gluten, as well as other health information such as fat and salt levels.
"This isn't about chasing a fad… GlutenSwitch helps consumers who must maintain a gluten-free diet choose the best options for their health," Paul Bates, Bupa's chief medical officer, said of the app.
Another market which indicates signs of promise is Israel, where approximately 25,000 people have been diagnosed with coeliac disease. Although this still represents less than 0.5% of the total Israeli population, the country's gluten-free foods market continues to develop. It should be remembered the majority of Israeli consumers follow strict dietary requirements on account of kosher laws, so interest in what goes into their foods is already high.
Recent years have seen the emergence of gluten free alternatives to some traditional favourites in the Israeli diet – examples include bread, pizza and bourekas (a form of pastry). Besides the retail market, some Israeli restaurants and cafes have also started offering gluten-free bread and rolls for coeliac customers.
Click here for the final part of the just-food management briefing, which examines the regulatory and marketing environment in the gluten-free sector.