The gluten-free bandwagon is growing, and four years worth of data collection just released is confirming this. The NPD Group, an international market information company, reported earlier this month that one in every three U.S. adults claims to have cut down on, or is now avoiding gluten completely. Since 2009, when NPD’s Dieting Monitor (a bi-weekly tracker of the “top-of-mind dieting and nutrition-related issues facing consumers”) started asking about gluten, numbers of those looking to avoid or cut back have consistently trended upwards.
“This is the health issue of the day,” said Harry Balzer, chief NPD industry analyst and author of Eating Patterns in America, in a recent press release. The NPD survey also revealed that the incidence of consumers ordering food described on the menu as gluten-free or wheat-free has also grown, and is now more than double what it was four years ago – accounting for over 200 million restaurant visits in the past year.
“The number of U.S. adults who say they are cutting down on or avoiding gluten is too large for restaurant operators to ignore,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst, in the press release. “Restaurant operators and marketers can find opportunities to address consumer needs when it comes to their growing interest in cutting down on or avoiding gluten, like training staff to accurately answer customer questions, using symbols on menus and menu boards to highlight items that are gluten-free, as a way to extend consumer awareness and confidence in ordering.”
To date, three million Americans have been diagnosed with celiac disease (CD), and it is four times more common than it was 50 years ago. While these trends account largely for people who need to avoid gluten for medical reasons, there is also a surge in the number of adults who are gluten-free for the reported health and athletic benefits. While the gluten-free trend was speculated to be a flash in the pan a few years ago, it appears to have lasting appeal to Americans.