Gluten, it’s safe to say, is a household word. For years now, brands have been launching gluten-free versions of popular products to appeal to gluten-allergic or -intolerant consumers, as well as fad dieters. Now Plano, Texas-based Pizza Hut and Chicago-based MillerCoors have announced their own entrances into the gluten-free market.
Coors Peak Copper Lager, the only gluten-free beer currently in the MillerCoors portfolio, is being released in Seattle and Portland, Ore., on Feb. 1. And on Jan. 26, Pizza Hut is rolling out its gluten-free pizzas in 2,400 restaurants nationwide and will expand the offering based on demand, according to the company.
Pizza Hut and Coors may be late to the gluten-free party, but these new products still are a smart move, says Amanda Topper, a food analyst in the Chicago office of London-based market research firm Mintel Ltd. “[Pizza Hut and Coors] wanted to see, as a lot of manufacturers do, whether the trend would play out or if it was just another fad, like low-carb and low-fat. Now that the market just continues to grow and is anticipated to keep growing, it’s time to join in.”
According to Mintel, production and consumption of gluten-free products is on the rise: Sales of gluten-free foods and beverages in the U.S. hit $8.8 billion in 2014, up 63% since 2012.
Eighty-two percent of consumers who buy gluten-free products do not have a medical diagnosis of gluten sensitivity, and 44% eat the products for a reason other than gluten sensitivity, according to Mintel.
Forty-one percent of adults surveyed by Mintel say that gluten-free foods are “beneficial” for everyone, not just for those with gluten sensitivity or allergies. And while 44% of survey respondents think that “gluten-free diets are a fad,” that hasn’t slowed the trend’s popularity: 22% percent of Americans currently follow a gluten-free diet, compared with 15% in 2013, according to Mintel.
The trend has legs, Topper says. As with the popularity of “all-natural” and organic foods, gluten-free is a “free from” claim, meaning that it’s a sign that a product lacks a potentially undesirable ingredient or additive, and such claims tend to appeal to consumers whether or not those ingredients or additives could have any negative effects on consumers, she says. “Even though there hasn’t been any research done to prove that eating [gluten-free] foods contributes to weight loss, we still see that the No. 1 reason to eat them is because [consumers] think it’s better for their overall health,” she says. “Even health-care professionals, in some cases, are recommending that people try it. It seems like there’s a new reason coming out every day to eat these products.”
According to Topper, Pizza Hut’s new offering is different than many gluten-free products on the market because it’s certified gluten-free and approved by the Auburn, Wash.-based nonprofit Gluten Intolerance Group because the pizzas are prepared using separate tools to ensure that they contain no traces of gluten. This makes the pizzas safe for those with Celiac disease, the most intense form of gluten intolerance, Topper says, and consumers with Celiac are a surprisingly underserved segment in the gluten-free market. The new Coors product is not endorsed by a gluten-free organization.
For more on food trends, check out the January issue of Marketing News, available at AMA.org/MarketingNews.
This article was originally published in the Jan. 27, 2015 issue of Marketing News Weekly.
Author Bio: Molly Soat is a staff writer for Marketing News and Marketing News Weekly. E-mail her at [email protected]