SAN DIEGO — Consumers with celiac disease may not be the majority of gluten-free consumers, but they will stick around after those who don’t need to eat gluten-free have jumped ship. Formulators and marketers of gluten-free foods should understand what these consumers want and need. Such was the nature of research presented by Alicia De Francisco, professor, laboratory of cereals, Federal University of Santa Catarina, at Cerals 17, the AACC International annual meeting, held Oct. 8-11 in San Diego.
Bread was the main bakery item that consumers with celiac disease said they still feel is lacking in gluten-free alternatives. Despite advancement in the past 10 years on quality and nutrition, these consumers still believe things could be better. Being able to eat bread helps these consumers feel less isolated from their gluten-tolerant friends and family, Ms. De Francisco said, citing comments from a survey respondent. They also not only expect the bread to have comparable taste and texture to conventional bread but also some nutritional value.
“These consumers are dissatisfied with the nutrition in gluten-free bread,” Ms. De Francisco said. “They want some fiber in their bread and not just empty calories.”
Despite the higher price of gluten-free baked goods, those with celiac disease care more about taste and quality than price. It seems to be an accepted norm of buying these products.
“If it tastes good, they will buy it regardless about the price,” Ms. De Francisco said.
These consumers tend to be very brand loyal. When they find a product that meets their taste and nutrition standards, they tend to stick with that brand. This is also true of their fears about cross-contamination. Consumers with celiac disease will stick with a company they trust to ensure food safety and abandon those that drop the ball in this area. And being a small, tight-knit community, word spreads quickly for the good and the bad when it comes to gluten-free products and the bakeries that produce them.