More than one in four consumers seeking to reduce gluten intake

Sarah Reiter, Chief Commercial Officer

Our company provides high-value, healthy food ingredients to help meet consumer demand for a healthier diet. So understanding consumers, their needs, their preferences and lifestyle trends is a key factor in our product development cycle. Listening to customers, for example, led our research team to develop Reduced Gluten GoodWheat for people who enjoy the taste, texture and nutritional benefits of wheat, and at the same time would like to reduce gluten in their diet. What’s more, in the process of creating our reduced gluten product, additional product attributes emerged, such as improved protein and essential amino acid content.

As part of our commitment to bringing valued wheat innovations, we regularly take the pulse of consumers through market research. We recently commissioned Connell Group to conduct research to assess interest in reduced gluten products among American consumers. In the survey, consumers completed a 10-minute quantitative survey to gauge their attitudes towards health, thoughts on gluten avoidance, their desire for reduced/gluten-free options and to find the characteristics of those who reported that they were consuming less gluten.

The findings of the study were both interesting and insightful, with more than one in four consumers (26%) reporting that they are actively seeking to reduce their gluten intake or avoid it altogether. Within this group, long-term lifestyle and food choices outweigh trends, with the majority of respondents identifying as being more health focused and seeking to reduce or eliminate gluten for lifestyle reasons.

The survey showed interest in reduced-gluten is strongest for product features relating to reducing overall and gut inflammation, significant given that, according to an article published in Discover Magazine in September 2018, “at least three million people across the U.S. suffer from Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, the two main types of inflammatory bowel disease.”

Frequent exercisers are more interested in gut/muscle health, have a higher likelihood to reduce gluten already, and are more likely to be open to food choices that reduce gluten. As grocery shoppers focus more on personalized health and nutrition, foods and ingredients that deliver health prized. Those already consuming less gluten are significantly more likely to try to eat healthy foods all the time and to be willing to pay more for healthy foods. However, we found that, across the board, consumers reported that they are willing to pay more for products that have the propensity to reduce inflammation (overall and gut) and improve physical performance.

With nearly half of those looking to completely cut out gluten struggling to do so, there is a desire for more reduced gluten and gluten-free options in the marketplace, and growth opportunities for food, drink and ingredient makers. The research by Connell Group aligns with research conducted by DuPont and Mintel in 2018 that found that European consumers who chose to go gluten-free as a lifestyle choice rather than for a diagnosed medical reason cited poor availability of food products as a barrier to more purchases.

Of course, not everybody wants or needs to reduce gluten, but, given the historically bland qualities of early reduced-gluten and gluten free foods (I mean, we’ve all experienced those pizzas with bases that taste like cardboard right?!), we think it’s great to have as many choices as possible so that reducing gluten can be a positive culinary adventure.