Since this website has started, I have reported on the gluten free trend for the upcoming year.  The popularity of the gluten free diet was on the rise when I started writing about it back in 2008.  This year gluten free is again on a list.

HospitalityNet.org reported in early November that gluten free would be hot in the restaurant world for 2014.  Specifically it talked about gluten in a few areas of the restaurant and beverage industry:

  1. Beverage Trends:  gluten free beverages are on the minds of bartenders and mixologists
  2. Healthy food establishments are finally getting some love from customers. “More than one factor propels this profound market change:  the gluten-rejectors, Paleo people, diabetics, weight challenged, vegetarians, vegans…and two decades of hectoring by nutritionists, food Nazis and perhaps the first lady”. — Hospitalitynet.org’s quote…not mine. I am not a fan of the term “gluten rejectors” like it is a choice….”weight challenged” is not exactly flattering either.
  3. Gluten Free as a buzz word for 2014.  The report says the new popularity of the Paleo diet is adding fuel to the gluten free demand.

The question I have, is will restaurateurs really OWN gluten free by not just making money off the customers, but also learning how to make it safely for all gluten free eaters?  That was not addressed in the trends article.

Gluten Free Sections have expanded at supermarkets because of high demand.

Gluten Free Sections have expanded at supermarkets because of high demand.

Gluten Free Grocery Trends

So this got me thinking about the grocery sector.  I haven’t seen any trend reports on this yet.  So I talked with trend expert, Phil Lempert, also known as the SupermarketGuru.  I asked him whether the gluten free product trend would continue in supermarkets next year.  But how he answered was a surprise making me wonder — could gluten free’s 15 minutes of fame be nearing an end?

“There is no doubt that gluten-free products have been the hottest trend in supermarkets over the past few years and we anticipate it continuing with additional SKUs (stock keeping unit),” Lempert told me.  “Although we are seeing shoppers who are not celiac moving away from buying gluten free due to cost and over health concerns of a gluten free diet lacking nutrients including: fiber, iron, B vitamins and calcium.”

Ouch.  It is tough to hear.  We’ve been complaining about the cost and lack of nutrients in gluten free food for years, but we celiacs and gluten-sensitive folks can’t walk away from the diet like others can. We just need to make a concerted effort to seek out additional nutrients.  To add  insult to injury — Lempert even made a bold prediction,

“Frankly, I see it as a bubble bursting and in another two years revising and many of the products that are on the shelves now will disappear.” – Phil Lempert, Supermarket Guru

Disappear?  I was hoping at least when the fad ended and we remained the products would remain….

Gluten Free Prices Going Down

On the upside, research reported by CBC News in September from Canada suggests gluten free products are getting cheaper as the diet remains popular.

The report by Mohsin Rashid, a gastroenterologist based in Halifax, Nova Scotia looked at prices of gluten free food in Canada in 2008.  At that time gluten free foods were 242% more expensive than comparable, “regular” products, the CBC News said.

Now, Rashid says, gluten free foods are more like 162% more.

Demand is high and larger companies can sell gluten free food at a lower price.  Is that trend continuing in the US and elsewhere?  There is no official word out on that yet.

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2 Responses to “Food Trend Expert: Gluten Free’s Popularity May End Soon”

  1. You know, what I would really love would be for the general public to catch on to things like non-gluten-containing whole grains (e.g., amaranth, buckwheat, sorghum, millet), legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts, pure and simple foods like that, which are all naturally gluten-free but not JUST gluten-free; they all contain a ton of their own important nutrients for everybody.

    I get that I’m not the first person to say this at all, but wouldn’t it be nice if the prices of THOSE things would come down, and stay down even if gluten-free does turn out to be a bubble that bursts? Being left with fewer processed gluten-free convenience foods, but less expensive gluten-free staples that we can cook ourselves, would be an OK situation, if not the ideal situation for those of us who must eat gluten-free. I’d do without the big gluten-free sections at the grocery store if I could just get a bag of gluten-free whole grain flour for the same price as whole wheat.

  2. The big question in my mind is what percentage of people currently eating GF do have a choice about it. I know there are plenty of “bandwagon” folks, but actual diagnoses have also been sharply on the rise, so I’m hoping that even when the “fad” passes, there will still be a much larger market for GF foods than there was, say, 10 years ago, and that that factor will keep GF foods available and not quite as expensive as they once were.

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