Brands go gluten free

Loblaw and Pepsi are both rolling out gluten free products to tap into a $400- to $500-million market.

Loblaw is getting into the gluten-free market with its first line of President’s Choice products released in the bakery aisles on dedicated displays this month, says Ian Gordon, SVP Loblaw Brand.

The launch comes after the grocer had its private label line audited by the Gluten Free Certification program, an independent third-party audit that guarantees the food meets its gluten-free claim. It will be supported by in-store signage, with a more aggressive push in the new year, leading up to a feature in the February Healthy Eating Insider Report. Throughout 2013, he says more products will be released throughout the centre of the store, targeting traditional gluten-heavy products, such as pasta.

This follows Pepsico’s certification of Lays chips, which have always been gluten free. New packaging highlighting the designation will be rolling out over the coming months, said Nina Patel, senior marketing manager, in a statement.

“Clearly there’s a trend,” Gordon says. “Everywhere you look, you’re starting to see gluten free products, [such as] in natural health sections, food shows – there was gluten free show at [Toronto's] Wychwood Barns. It’s really a grassroots movement we think is gaining traction and there is a major consumer demand that’ll continue to grow.”

An estimated seven million Canadians buy gluten-free products each year, a move Paul Valder, president of the Allergen Control Group, which manages the certification program, attributes to the ever-rising number of people diagnosed with Celiac’s disease (an intolerance to gluten) and those wishing to cut down on gluten intake in general. The Canadian Celiac Association and the Allergen Control Group launched the third-party auditing certification program in an effort to encourage more brands to jump aboard the market opportunity and bring a sense of authenticity to the otherwise grassroots and niche category. Valder says the industry is worth between $400 and $500 million each year, and has remained, until recently, a largely untapped market by big food manufacturers.

“A lot of the brands are afraid to come out and make a lot of noise. They’re afraid they may lose market share. They don’t know what to expect,” he says.

A big focus for the Allergen Control Group will be to help change perception around gluten free products, with a social media campaign by Toronto-based Salt and Pepper, that’ll launch in spring 2013.