Four months ago, ESPN and other major sports media outlets were abuzz with news that popular New York Yankee first baseman Mark Teixeira had adopted a gluten-free, sugar-free, and dairy-free diet.
Teixeira's reason was a belief that his new diet, in addition to an overall rededication to health and wellness, would propel him back into the ranks of Major League Baseball's elite following several injury plagued seasons. This past February Teixeira proclaimed that he "felt like a kid again" and was in the best shape of his career after gaining more than ten pounds of muscle and eliminating body fat. Today, less than half of the way through the current MLB season, Teixeira is on pace to obliterate the 30-home run and 100-RBI goals he envisioned for himself when first embracing his "free from" diet.
Yet Teixeira isn't alone in his commitment to a "free from" lifestyle. Many other celebrities—including Zooey Deschanel, Drew Brees, Jennifer Lawrence, and perhaps most famously Gwyneth Paltrow, among others—along with non-celebrity consumers are often voluntarily cutting out specific ingredients for the sake of their health. This includes eliminating not only gluten, dairy, and sugar, but also fat, GMOs, sodium, and food processing additives.
"Food avoidance has become a way of life for tens of millions of American consumers of all ages. For consumers with allergies and intolerances, avoiding certain food and ingredients is a matter of life and death. But for other consumers avoiding various foods is a matter of choice based on a desire to lose weight or to have an overall healthier life. Hence for the latter group, it's not about dealing with specific allergies but rather a matter of optimizing health and also about seeking to create a quality of life based on eliminating negatives," says David Sprinkle, research director for market research firm Packaged Facts, which published the 2014 report Food Formulation Trends: Ingredients Consumers Avoid.
The popularity and momentum of the "free from" movement may be best exemplified by the enduring and thriving presence of gluten-free foods and beverages. Packaged Facts' July/August 2014 survey data published in the 2015 report Gluten-Free Foods in the U.S., 5th Edition reveal that more than a third of consumers claim gluten-free/wheat-free is an important factor when they are shopping for food. In addition, a quarter of survey respondents had purchased or used food products labeled gluten-free in the three months prior to the survey.
Likewise, in the retail sector, sales of gluten-free foods posted an impressive compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34% over the five-year period ended in 2014, when market sales reached $973 million. The market is projected to exceed $2 billion in sales by 2019.