The latest news, views and insights in food trends
In our 2021 trends prediction report, we identified gluten-free as a trend we expect to see expand to new audiences in the new year. Where has the gluten-free trend been in 2020, and what can we anticipate from it in 2021?
The gluten-free food and beverage category is well-placed for the current moment. “Gluten-free” applies significantly - and nearly exclusively - to food and beverage, setting supplements aside. Within this rich food and beverage scene, gluten-free consumption is beneficial to those who require it (ie. those living with Celiac), but also has uses for general gut health, brain health, skin health, weight management, etc. As scientific research continues to explore the benefits of gluten-free, more and more consumers are jumping on board - we are currently seeing the most health-literate group of consumers perhaps ever.
Interest in functional food and beverage has skyrocketed; whereas in 2019, 1 in every 3 consumers made consumption choices rooted in functional needs, 2020 saw a significant switch to 1 in every 2 consumers making those same decisions. With at least 50% of the consumers attuned to the functional benefits of food and beverage and growing, gluten-free trends are primed to achieve wider recognition. The traditional associations of gluten-free as “just” for Celiac are on their way out as consumers learn of the category’s diverse benefits. For CPGs, food brands, restaurants and other stakeholders, considering trends among consumers who have the choice of what to eat, and choose to eat gluten-free, is a valuable exercise.
Gluten-free’s origins lay within elimination diets; today the trend has moved solidly into the mainstream.
Consumer interest in food and beverage that supports nutritional, functional, and health needs is up +18% YoY. This rising interest applies to gluten-free categories as well. Interest in immunity-boosting, gluten-free products and dishes are up increasing a significant +19% MoM on average, while interest in comforting and stress-relieving gluten-free items is up +6% MoM and 2.4% MoM on average, respectively. American interest in non-GMO gluten-free products is 3x higher than general interest in non-GMO food and beverage, while consumers turn to the gluten-free category for weight loss 4x more than general food and beverage. This attention to the nutritional and functional benefits of gluten-free eating and drinking will only continue to rise.
Gluten-free trends originate within the home in both the UK and USA
As people widely become more well-versed in the health benefits of food & beverage, gluten-free trends are growing steadily at similar rates in both the UK and the US. Interest is particularly strong in home cooking contexts; UK consumers are +33% more interested in cooking gluten-free at home this year than last, while their US counterparts are +37% more interested this year. The pandemic’s explosion of interest in baking at home (between February - April of 2020 alone, baking saw a +100% increase in consumer interest) positively impacted engagement with gluten-free, a category with significant baking applications. With home cooking on the rise consumers aren’t just baking more - they’re building expertise that will continue to have effects in the long run.
Baking trends will continue to accelerate interest in gluten-free in the mainstream, but will not be the sole interest area in 2021. Consumers are increasingly turning to gluten-free food and beverage for their high fiber and protein content. US consumers turn to gluten-free food and beverage for protein content almost 7x more than non-gluten-free, while interest in high-fiber, gluten-free food and beverage is growing 1.3% MoM on average.
In 2021, consider expanding your product innovation and marketing to focus on gluten-free for wide audiences, with a particular focus on the health and functional benefits that matter most to your consumers.