Despite gluten-free product boom, celiac disease may be widely undiagnosed


CHICAGO — New research from Mintel suggested that the number of consumers that are gluten-intolerant/sensitive or have been diagnosed with celiac disease should be much greater.

The firm said that the gluten-free industry has grown 27% since 2009 and exceeded $6 billion in 2011, thanks to new products (Mintel's Global New Products Database found that product launches with a gluten-free claim nearly tripled in 2011 to roughly 1,700 products, compared with 2007); however, only 1% of consumers reported they have been diagnosed with celiac disease, and only 8% said they are gluten-intolerant/sensitive. Mintel said it believes the number of those with the condition should be closer to 15%.

"The prevailing problem is that many Americans simply may not realize they are gluten-intolerant/sensitive, or they may be ignoring signs and symptoms," said David Browne, senior analyst at Mintel. "While food companies may be overdoing it unnecessarily with gluten-free label claims that are appearing on everything from tomato sauce to scallops, the message is getting out and it's likely that many more consumers will engage in the sector, both for foods eaten at home and at restaurants."

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