UK baker Warburtons has revealed plans to launch a range of gluten-free products. As consumer diets and innovation changes, here we take a closer look at the gluten-free bakery sector.

  • Competition from food manufacturers and retailers to introduce gluten-free bakery products is growing in order to meet rising demand. Finsbury Food Group has had success with its Genius bread range, while Warburtons last week revealed plans to launch a range of gluten-free products. Morrisons also, last monthrevealed plans to expand its offer in health food, including products like gluten free and free-from.
  • The gluten/wheat-free bakery sector is currently worth GBP13.9m (US$21.9m), according to figures from Kantar Worldpanel. Spend grew 57% year-on-year for the 53 weeks ended 3 October, with Finsbury Food Group’s Genius brand holding the biggest share of the category.  
  • Around 2.2% of the UK population purchased free-from bakery in the last year. On average, households purchased free-from 8.4 times in the same period with a total spend on average of GBP24.90. 
  • Gluten is a protein found in a number of cereals including wheat, rye and barley. If you have coeliac disease you need to avoid foods made from these cereals, including most types of bread, pasta, pizza, pastry, biscuits and cakes, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA). Wheat ingredients are used in many foods, such as some sausages and burgers, many sauces, and foods in batter or breadcrumbs.
  • A gluten-free diet is undertaken by people who have coeliac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis (a gluten induced skin sensitivity). However, some people may choose to follow a gluten-free diet for other reasons, although these two diseases are the only ones where a gluten-free diet is considered medically imperative, according to The Vegetarian Society.
  • Food labelling rules require pre-packed food sold in the UK, and the rest of the European Union, to show clearly on the label if it contains cereals containing gluten, including wheat, rye, barley and oats (or if one of its ingredients contains these). A claim of ‘gluten free’ or ‘very low gluten’ now have specific meanings and can only be used on certain foods. ‘Gluten free’ means that the product contains 20 parts or less of gluten per million, the FSA says. 
  • Gluten helps give bread an elastic quality and a chewy texture. In order to have bread, pizza bases etc with some of these qualities, a second category of products labelled as ‘very low gluten’ has been allowed. This category includes only those products that are manufactured using a special type of starch that has been treated to take out almost all of the gluten. Products in this category will have a higher level of gluten in them of up to 100 parts per million, according to the FSA. 
  • While there are many firms now producing gluten-free ranges in a bid to keep up with trends, it is possible that some manufacturers will not be able to meet these levels because other products they are making have contaminated a pre-packed food during its transportation, storage or production, the FSA says. In which case, they may decide to tell you that the food does not contain any gluten-containing ingredients and leave it to you to decide whether the level of accidental contamination of the food is too high for you to eat.