According to a new report by Global Market Insights, the gluten-free food market will be valued at $12.5 billion by 2025, which is nearly double the current value. This growth can be attributed to increased consumer consciousness about the health benefits of a gluten-free diet.

As consumer interest in gluten-free products has grown, the category has transitioned from a niche to a mainstream market segment. Boosting demand in the market for gluten-free foods are new product launches featuring flours based on nuts, seeds, beans, fruits and vegetables that appeal across a range of diet trends. Cassava, coconut and cauliflower are among ingredients replacing wheat in tortillas, pizza crusts and snacks. Such products are perceived as healthier than traditional options, says Melissa Abbott, vice president of The Hartman Group.

“When we started seeing the gluten-free trend happen a decade and a half ago, it was really in part a reaction, and it continues to be a reaction against highly processed, industrialized products that are made with industrialized flour,” Abbott says. “Fast forward a few years, and we start to see other diets come to the fore, like Whole30 and paleo, that leverage this notion that highly refined carbohydrates, particularly grains, were not good for you, and that included gluten.”

The International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2019 Food and Health Survey showed 6% of respondents said they were following a gluten-free diet, which was unchanged from the prior year. Consumer sentiments surrounding gluten have evolved, says William Roberts Jr., senior food and drink analyst at Mintel, Chicago. He noted gluten-free market growth has slowed from the high-double-digit rates sustained a few years ago. “Is it declining?” he says. “A little bit in terms of interest. Is it growing? A little bit in terms of sales.”

Adding to the equation, the environment and sustainability are topics “that we can’t not talk about,” says Barb Stuckey, president and chief innovation officer at Mattson. “In bakery, we are watching alternative flours. We think we are going to see a lot more of this. Lots of alternative flours are coming.”

Gluten-free drives innovation

John McIsaac, vice president of strategic business development for Reiser, based in Canton, Massachusetts, points out that gluten-free demand is driving change in the bakery equipment sector, and Reiser is responding. 

Opened in 2008 in Canton, the Reiser Customer Center was updated in 2017 with new construction that doubled the size of the facility to 13,200 square feet. Problem solving is really the crux of the baking aspect of the Reiser Customer Center. Clients are seeking to scale up and increase efficiencies; formulate a new product; produce a gold standard prototype on their equipment; and/or rectify production issues.

“As always, our customers will drive our innovation,” McIsaac says. “At their insistence we developed small machines to produce pizza dough and bread portions, solutions that handle the dough gently and accurately. They drive us to produce new doublescrews for our Vemag that can portion larger and larger inclusions without damage. They drive us to produce machines that can handle the stiffest energy bar and the stickiest gluten-free dough. We listen to them, and then our engineers and bakers go to work.”

Sustainability becomes the norm

For decades, the average consumer has been contemplating the maze of headlines, claims, jargon, certifications and corporate and public interest platforms that make up the complex world of sustainability. In 2009, when The Hartman Group published its Sustainability: The Rise of Consumer Responsibility report, America’s consumers were reeling from the weight of a catastrophic economic recession. Some of the only bright lights in the otherwise gloomy economic realities of the time lie in those topics that intersect with sustainability (two examples common to both consumers and industry alike being “saving energy” and “hope for a better world”).

Hartman Group’s new report, Sustainability 2019: Beyond Business as Usual, uncovers that sustainability as a cultural value and defining concern for consumers has not lost any of its vitality in the intervening years.

“Sustainability is shorthand for a complete moral system of cultural values, beliefs, and attitudes related to a sense of responsibility for the greater good,” says Laurie Demeritt, CEO of The Hartman Group, a consulting firm.

The report finds that today’s consumers are confronted by real and immediate sustainability challenges. Crises no longer seem far away in time or space — even abstract problems like climate change and the permanence of plastic waste have become pressing and present for consumers across segments, and they want progress and solutions.