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Gluten-free: Trend or Fad? – UPDATE


Last March, we ran a blog post that asked the question “Gluten-free—Trend or Fad?” The post received hundreds of comments and responses on our blog, Twitter page, and on a couple dozen different food groups on LinkedIn. The passion on this issue runs high and opinions cross the spectrum from seeing gluten-free as a mainstream market trend, to thinking it’s just a foodie-centric fad du jour. That passion continues among hard core supporters, but the spike in media attention that gluten-free received in 2010 and early 2011 has recently shown signs of decline.

There continues to be new gluten-free products introduced and there is also aggressive market activity, as seen in last month’s announcement that Smart Balance will acquire Glutino Foods Group for $66 million. Nonetheless, several major CPG food manufacturers have reported during recent analyst calls that they have failed to see significant commercial volume for gluten-free products and still consider the category a niche market. Reprinted below is our original post on the subject that summarizes many of the primary arguments and sources for the gluten-free debate. What do you think? What is your update on the question “Gluten-free: Trend or Fad?”

Originally posted March 21, 2011
Author: Jennifer Scott

In a February article on, it appears the gluten-free food trend is still on the up-and-up. In fact, the sector is projected to grow to $6 billion by 2015. The article also suggests that this rise in popularity has to do with a few factors:

  1. An increase in diagnosis for Celiac Disease (CD)—In a article dated July 2010, Mayo Clinic research confirmed CD diagnosis was up four-fold worldwide, thus dramatically increasing the number of people who were recommended a gluten-free diet for medical purposes.
  2. Evidence suggesting a gluten-free diet can relieve autism in children and adult rheumatoid arthritis—According to a article, while very little research has been done, parents are incorporating a gluten-free diet and reporting improvements in their autistic children’s symptoms. And a study was conducted a couple of years ago by Arthritis Research & Therapy concluding a gluten-free diet helped reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
  3. The belief that gluten-free is a “healthy” way of life—The gluten-free diet is something that a lot celebrities have been adapting, and is believed by many to help people lose weight. The ABC network did a special feature in November of 2010 on gluten-free as a health trend, highlighting both the positives and negatives of a gluten-free diet. Click here to check it out.

Not everyone is convinced the gluten-free trend will stick around. For example, Suzy Badaracco, president of Culinary Tides—a site devoted to tracking industry movements and its influence on food, flavor and health trends—believes that gluten-free followers who have chosen a gluten-free diet based on the belief that it is a healthier option are likely to stop purchasing and consuming gluten-free products—and she predicts it will happen quickly. Read more here. Also, in a U.S. News Healtharticle, the gluten-free diet is believed to be “a cure for some” and “a fad for most.” Read the entire article here. While it looks like the gluten-free trend is still alive and well, keep in mind that what you could be seeing is a fad. And, as we all know, fads die. And most often quickly.

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