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Gluten-free diets: consumption needs and trends

Initially created to meet the needs of celiacs, now they’ve been adopted also by consumers choosing gluten-free as a food lifestyle. Today the idea that gluten-free food is only for those who suffer intolerances or allergies has been debunked. Instead, following the new health trends that have boosted also the gluten-free market, this type of product is chosen, in fact, also by those who want products that they consider to be good for the body. Today’s consumer has a different, more extensive food awareness, and makes informed decisions. In the large retail sector, in fact, many companies have adjusted, offering a parallel range of gluten-free products.

CELIAC DISEASE AND GLUTEN INTOLERANCE

Many people think that celiac disease and gluten intolerance are synonymous. In actual fact, this is not the case. They are two pathologies linked to the same substance but differ both at a molecular level and for their symptoms. In people affected by celiac disease, gluten triggers an auto-immune reaction that attacks the intestine and damages the intestinal mucus. Gluten intolerance, on the other hand, manifests itself in abdominal pains, an irritable colon and tiredness, but does not lead to serious intestinal injury.

According to a Federconsumatori (Consumer association) survey in September 2016, in Italy there are 172,197 people affected, equal to around 2% of the population. The Ministry of Health estimates, however, that at least another 400 thousand people are waiting for a diagnosis.

PRODUCTS WITHOUT GLUTEN: A GROWING MARKET

According to the latest report of the British research institute, Visiongain, which analyses the trend in the world, the market for gluten-free products in 2016 reached globally a turnover of over four and a half billion dollars; the figure is destined to triple by 2026. In Italy the gluten-free sector has an average annual growth rate of 30%. In 2016 12% of new products registered in Europe had a GLUTEN-FREE label.

THE NEW CONSUMPTION TREND

Allergies and intolerances are, therefore, a very important phenomenon, flanked by new lifestyles and ways of consuming, as shown by the Eurispes 2016 Italy Report, which estimates an increase of vegetarians (7.1%, up compared to 2015) and vegans (1%, significantly higher compared to the previous two-year period). The latter trend is driven most of all by greater attention towards health and wellbeing on the part of consumers.
It’s not just those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance that are pushing the sales of gluten-free products. It’s also thanks to those consumers that are choosing foods without gluten regardless of any intolerance to this vegetable protein. They are consumers that frequently buy different types of “free-from” products, besides organic and functional products and supplements. They are the Millennials, people between 16 and 34 years of age, who have developed greater awareness of the risks associated with the consumption of certain foods and who follow a varied diet, attentive to the body’s wellbeing.

What links these types of consumers is the search for quality and taste, also in gluten-free products. In the past, gluten-free products did not have a good taste, and also for this reason they were ghettoised into the “pharmaceutical foods” category and were difficult to find unless in a pharmacy or in few dedicated shops. Conversely, today gluten-free products must be tasty and enjoyable, and therefore eating them is no longer a problem, but a veritable trend.

Sources: www.osservatorioagr.euwww.greenme.itwww.dolcesalato.comwww.freefromfoodexpo.com