Stay on the alert for grain-free diets

Grain-based foods companies have developed strategies centered on the gluten-free market for nearly a decade. In 2017, they might want to keep track of two other diets: the paleo diet and the ketogenic diet.

“Those are not only gluten-free, they are basically grain-free,” said Rachel Cheatham, Ph.D., founder and chief executive officer of Foodscape Group L.L.C., Chicago.

Loren Cordain, Ph.D., encouraged followers of the paleo diet to avoid grains, legumes, dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, processed foods, salt and refined vegetable oils in his book “The Paleo Diet.” The number of global product launches featuring the word “paleo” jumped from single figures in 2010 to more than 300 in the 12-month period ended September 2015, according to Innova Market Insights, Duiven, The Netherlands.

Products aimed at the paleo diet were found at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, Calif., March 9-12. Dr. Cheatham added she saw products aimed at the ketogenic diet as well.

“It’s trendy, it’s niche, but it’s there,” she said of the ketogenic diet products. “It’s not just a diet book. There are actual products that are on the shelf being marketed and ready to go.”

The ketogenic diet prompts the body to produce ketones, causing the body to use fat instead of glucose for energy, leading to weight loss, according to the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. People in a state of ketosis generally do not feel well, and their breath smells badly, Dr. Cheatham said. She said she wonders if people on the diet are meeting their needs for adequate calories from balanced sources. Human physiology may go into a crash mechanism if people do not get the right macronutrients and calories in their system, she said.

When formulating products aimed for gluten-free diets or other specialty diets, companies might wish to decide which type of consumers to target, Dr. Cheatham said. Some people may be more vigilant and determined to follow diets free of dairy or grains.

“They’ve got all these tenets that they are attempting to follow,” she said. “They are really hardcore and serious about it.”

Everyday consumers might be trying to eat a little healthier. Flavor and price might be more important to them.