Although just 11 percent of U.S. households follow a gluten-free diet, about 25 percent of consumers believe that gluten-free is good for everyone, according to new research from The NPD Group. However, the healthy halo tends to be offset by the high cost and taste of gluten-free foods, says the "Understanding the Gluten-Free Trend" report.
The perception that gluten-free is generally healthy is reflected in NPD's finding that only 25 percent of those living in a gluten-free home say celiac disease or gluten sensitivity is the main reason. Among the other reasons consumers cite for following a gluten-free diet are that it improves digestive health and eliminates toxins from the body.
"There is clearly a segment of the population who avoids gluten for reasons other than gluten sensitivity or disease, providing a greater opportunity for food manufacturers and retailers," Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst, said in a news release. "Food marketers should pay close to attention to all of the reasons for a gluten-free diet and connect the reasons with appropriate messages in order to better target your audiences."
Half of gluten-free consumers say that they may not be willing to sacrifice taste in order to maintain a gluten-free diet; however, the most cited reason for choosing to not purchase a gluten-free product is that it was too expensive.
"Careful consideration of pricing compared to alternatives that contain gluten will be of particular importance to the success of most gluten-free products, especially in the current economy," Seifer said. "Continued improvement of the taste of gluten-free products will also be important in order to keep consumers purchasing in the gluten-free space."