Gluten-Free: Why the Label and Trend Can Last

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Walk through almost any grocery store, bakery, or café and you’ll eventually come across a product with “gluten-free” stamped in prominent, bold letters on the box. The sign appears on everything from cakes and breads to innocuous offerings that never had gluten to begin with. For people with a medical condition, such as Celiac Disease, it makes buying and browsing safe and convenient; for others, it pulls them into a multi-million dollar industry that has boomed in recent years.

Nielsen reported an uptick in sales of gluten-free products as early as 2008, when sales jumped 20 percent over a 12-month period from $1.46 billion to $1.75 billion. The New York Times reports that in 2013, $10.5 billion worth of gluten-free products were sold. By 2016, it is expected to be an industry worth $15 billion in annual sales.

Going gluten-free is not just picking up a box stamped with the term, but changes entire routines. On the Nielsen top ten for adult non-fiction books sold between March 10 and 16, there are three books dealing with diets and health; two pertain to gluten, grains, and cooking. Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar — Your Brain’s Silent Killers discusses links between grains, degenerative diseases, and ill health. The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook is a collection of recipes developed by America’s Test Kitchen that are, as the title suggests, gluten-free. The industry isn’t just food, but extends beyond the grocery store and into a person’s lifestyle.

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