Sales of gluten-free foods have peaked, said David Sprinkle, research director for the market research firm Packaged Facts. But he emphasized that reaching its peak does not mean category sales of gluten-free foods are falling.

Sales of gluten-free foods are forecast to reach $1,328 million in 2016, according to Packaged Facts’ “Gluten-free foods in the U.S.” report published this month. The figure represents a 6% change compared to 2015. In contrast, sales of gluten-free foods in 2013 were $837 million, an 86% change compared to the previous year.

Mr. Sprinkle added that the data he presented Oct. 5 during a presentation at SupplySide West, taking place Oct. 4-7 in Las Vegas, pertains only to products that would have gluten in them, but have been reformulated to eliminate the protein.

There are several reasons why category growth has slowed beyond the overall size of the market. Part of the sales ebb reflects general assumptions by consumers about gluten-free foods that correspond with decline in growth. For example, Mr. Sprinkle said the number of consumers who said they are consuming gluten-free products to help manage their weight went from 30% in 2010 to 20% in 2016. During the same period, consumers who perceived gluten-free foods to be higher quality than those with gluten fell from 25% to 18%

In order for sales of gluten-free products to continue on its current trajectory, Mr. Sprinkle said product developers are going to have to focus on combining the elimination of a negative with the addition of a positive.

“Consumers have figured out gluten-free chocolate chip cookies are not a health food,” he said. “Having a positive message is now required, whether it is the inclusion of whole grains, pulses or legumes. Consumers are looking for that balance in gluten-free products. One of the important things to do is choose your allies carefully, whether it is whole grains or added protein.”

Part of the product development quest is knowing about the ingredients in products, Mr. Sprinkle said.

“The consumer landscape is leaning toward knowing more about ingredients,” he said. “With that attention to ingredients there is the assumption that natural nutrients are better than those in processed foods. The gold standard of natural is whole foods like the apple. There is this distrust of processed foods. Natural nutrition remains the gold standard. This is important for gluten free as superfoods replace gluten in processed foods.”

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