The pinch on discretionary spending is expected to see consumers weighing up the value of specialist gluten-free foods, according to a recent article in British Baker. When it comes to success in the bakery category, industry experts suggest innovation will be the key to developing products that compare better to main-category versions.
Manufacturers are faced with consumer perception that gluten-free products have gritty texture and poor nutrition, with gluten-free bread options, until recently, being very basic and starchy. Those making gluten-free products, including many bakers, are having to work harder to justify their credentials and price premiums, and attract a wider audience.
Many are turning to “gluten-free plus” – in addition to being gluten-free, products are marketed with multiple credentials, such as high-fibre, active cultures, vegan, milk-free, halal, plus convenience and artisanal. Products are also being developed to be more flavoursome and higher in protein.
However, the higher cost of gluten-free bakery goods is currently unavoidable. Gluten free has a premium that comes with batch testing, cleaning and due diligence required to guarantee a ‘free from’ product. A spokesperson from leading UK gluten free bakery Warburton noted that economies of scale, plus the complexity of ingredients and production impact the price of gluten-free bakery when comparing with the core range.
The British Baker article featured Edinburgh-based Nairn’s to highlight the necessary steps that bear extra costs. Nairn’s operates a fully segregated gluten-free supply chain, where the oats * they use are tested at every stage of the growing, milling and baking processes. Nairn’s has a separate bakery for gluten-free products and each batch of finished product is sent to an independent lab for final gluten testing. For Nairn’s, formulation challenges reportedly remain ongoing as they strive to create gluten-free versions of main category products without using artificial substances as replacers.
However, Andrew Daly, founder, and director of Good It’s Gluten Free believes that as consumers become more educated about general gut health, more people without official conditions (such as coeliac disease) are likely to choose free-from foods. With growing consumer interest in gut health and the microbiome and there being no treatment or cure for coeliac disease, an improved gluten-free sector is well-placed for continued growth despite the current strains on consumer spending.
* Please note that currently gluten free claims cannot be made on oat products in Australia and New Zealand.