Is gluten-free an opportunity too good to miss?

There has been a huge amount of media noise around the new food information regulations, introduced in December, with caterers and operators left to foot the bill and many left wondering if the extra cost of implementation is really necessary.

There are 14 recognised allergens, of which those in the food industry must be aware. Consequences of consumption could be anything from as small as an upset stomach, to a severe allergic reaction, which could be fatal if not treated immediately.

Nuts, fish and crustaceans are allergies that have been on the industry’s radar for some time, with these causing some of the most severe reactions, and reference on menus now commonplace. However, some of the more recent allergies, such as intolerance to wheat and gluten, known as coeliac disease, have prompted this recent legislative action.

According to Horizons, the use of allergen and gluten free terminology is rising 20% year on year on high street menus, but a recent article in Quickbite Magazine stated that 78% of consumers still believe catering outlets aren’t doing enough to meet dietary requirements of coeliac sufferers. What with the total industry cost to comply with the new regulations expected to exceed £200m, is it any surprise that this is the case.

But is it worth it?

It isn’t just those diagnosed with coeliac disease – according to gluten-free supplier, Delicious Alchemy, around 12% of the population are recognised as gluten-free ‘lifestylers’, who chose to eat gluten-free as part of a healthy diet. A growing demographic, that cannot be ignored. The Quickbite article claims that 36% of consumers are willing to pay more for gluten free alternatives and 37% said they would visit outlets more often if they provided more gluten-free options, according to Toluna Consumer Insight. An argument that there is a massive long-term profit opportunity for pubs, hotels restaurants and cafés, that could quickly outway the cost of implementing the new regulations.

Everywhere you look, outlets are taking advantage of this trend, from Pizza Express offering gluten-free bases to Brewdog launching gluten-free beer, and one in 10 food products launched in 2014 being gluten-free - double the previous year. Its no wonder sales of gluten-free products are now worth £184m, up 15% from 2013. Is that an opportunity you are willing to miss out on?

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