PARSIPPANY, N.J. — Efforts by Pinnacle Foods to integrate recently acquired brands should be felt across the still growing gluten-free category this year. New product launches that focus on convenience, like bars and instant oatmeal, should have an impact, too.
Data continue to suggest strong interest in gluten-free products.
The 2016 Food and Health Survey from The International Food Information Council Foundation, Washington, revealed 20% of Americans are trying to avoid gluten, which compared with 19% in the 2015 survey and 13% in the 2014 survey. Chicago-based Mintel last December released data showing U.S. sales of gluten-free foods grew 136% from 2013-15 to reach $11.6 billion, accounting for 6.5% of total food sales in 2015 compared with 2.8% in 2013.
Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md., conducted a national on-line consumer survey of 2,000 U.S. adults in July and August 2014. The gluten-free category showed a compound annual growth rate of 34% over the five-year period ended in 2014, when market sales reached $1,027.5 million. Packaged Facts forecast a CAGR of 19% from 2014-19, which would put the gluten-free category at $2.47 billion in sales.
The Packaged Facts report limited gluten-free items to those in the traditionally grain-based categories of salty snacks, crackers, pasta, bread, cold cereal, cookies, baking mixes, frozen bread/dough and flour. The products also had to meet two main criteria: whether they possibly could contain gluten and whether they were clearly labeled and marketed as gluten-free.
Boulder Brands, still an independent company in 2014, accounted for 10.2% of the market share of gluten-free food products tracked by Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm, according to the Packaged Facts report. General Mills held a 4.5% share.
Pinnacle Foods, Inc., on Jan. 15 of this year closed on its acquisition of Boulder Brands, Inc. The deal included gluten-free brands Udi’s and Glutino.
Pinnacle’s consolidated net sales in the first quarter ended March 27 were $754,255,000, up 13% from the previous year’s first quarter. The Boulder Brands’ acquisition contributed $100,843,000 in net sales to the Pinnacle Foods results.
On a volume basis in the first quarter, Udi’s experienced growth of 9%, and Glutino had growth of 6.5, said Craig Steeneck, chief financial officer, in an April 28 conference call to discuss first-quarter financial results.
“So really, as we have said all along, the gluten-free segment shows no sign of slowing down at all, and obviously, with the two leading brands in that segment, Udi’s and Glutino, they continue to benefit from that,” Mr. Steeneck said. “So we continue to be really bullish on those two brands in the segment in total.”
Pinnacle Foods expects Boulder Brands to contribute net sales in the range of $460 million to $480 million for the entire fiscal year, which reflects the 49 weeks that Boulder Brands will be consolidated with Pinnacle Foods.
“It also reflects the anticipated impact of s.k.u. (stock-keeping unit) rationalization efforts that are critical to synergy capture and building the foundation for accelerated growth,” Mr. Steeneck said.
Recent gluten-free cereal results have been mixed for General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis. Last year the company halted production of its Gluten-Free Chex Oatmeal. Retail sales of gluten-free Cheerios were up 2% since their launch in the summer of 2015, said Jeff Harmening, chief operating officer of U.S. Retail, in a March 23 earnings call.
For a potential convenience item, General Mills on June 2 filed a patent for ready-to-bake gluten-free pizza dough formulations with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The Quaker Oats Co., a division of Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo, Inc., added to its gluten-free portfolio this year. The company on Jan. 26 introduced two gluten-free oatmeal products: Quaker Quick 1-Minute Standard Oats and Quaker Gluten Free Instant Oatmeal.
Gluten-free bars arrive
The year has seen several gluten-free bar launches.
Kashi, a business unit of Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., is introducing a line of savory bars in three flavors: basil white bean and olive oil, chickpea curry and chili, and quinoa corn and roasted pepper. The bars, which are gluten-free and Non-GMO Project verified, are scheduled to appear in retail markets in July.
Kind, L.L.C., New York, is launching its fruit bars made with fruit and chia or fruit and vegetables. Pressed by Kind bars contain five ingredients or less, have no added sugar and provide two servings of fruit. The bars are dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free and come in five varieties: mango apple chia, pineapple coconut chia, pineapple banana kale spinach, apricot pear carrot beet, and cherry apple chia.
Achieve Superfoods, Inc. is launching SuperBar snack bars with amaranth. The gluten-free bars are available in apricots and ginger, blueberries and vanilla, cherries and chocolate, and raisins and cinnamon varieties.
Gluten-free consumers diverse
When marketing gluten-free products, companies should know people who consume the products may fall into different categories.
“It’s not one homogenous group,” said Jennifer North, vice-president of Beyond Celiac, Ambler, Pa. “There are multiple reasons why people may choose a gluten-free diet. The needs of each of those individual audiences are really different.”
People with celiac disease, who cannot eat gluten for medical reasons, make up the core.
“Even a crumb, less than a crumb, can set off an auto-immune reaction,” Ms. North said.
Other people may have non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
“That group is largely self-diagnosed because we do not have a diagnostic tool currently for gluten sensitivity,” she said. “Research on non-celiac gluten sensitivity is still in its infancy.”
Families with a member who has celiac disease make up another category. Ms. North said her niece has celiac disease, which affects a family of five.
“They eat strictly gluten-free in the home for two reasons,” Ms. North said. “One, it is easier for (Ms. North’s sister) to keep the gluten-free foods safe if she’s not cooking multiple things in her home, but also that her family can eat together and nobody feels excluded.”
Ms. North’s daughter, Molly, was diagnosed with celiac disease at the age of 16 in 2008. Ms. North said the quality and the availability of gluten-free products has grown since then.
“You can go into any Wal-Mart, gas station, corner convenience store and find food that is labeled gluten-free,” she said.