A niche market is developing in the US for people battling celiac disease, with sales of gluten-free products expected to top US$696m in 2006, according to a research report.

Gluten-Free Foods and Beverages, a new report from market research group Packaged Facts, said that the gluten-free market will reach $1.7bn by the end of 2010 after beginning the decade at a mere $210m, in 2001.

Heavy internal and Internet promotion among celiac support groups and the availability of gluten-free products at specialty and online stores have brought gluten-free into the limelight, noted the report.

“Gluten-free is not going away. Once a person is diagnosed with celiac disease the only way to prevent it is to stay on a gluten-free diet,” said Don Montuori, the publisher of Packaged Facts. “With as many as 97% of celiacs remaining undiagnosed, this remains a largely untapped market that will continue to evolve as more people are diagnosed and more innovative gluten-free products are made available.”