Gluten-Free: Increasing Opportunities with Increasing Awareness
K. Fitzpatrick. NutriTech Consulting, Winnipeg, MB, Canada. Cereal Foods World 52(3):150-151.
The incidence of celiac disease is on the rise in North America, and since the only known management tool for the disease is a gluten-free diet, the marketing potential for gluten-free products, both in Canada and in the United States, is significant. On top of that, current estimates as to how many people remain undiagnosed run as high as 97%. At the moment, food labeling laws in Canada and the United States have not kept pace with consumer demand for information, but change is on the horizon. In the United States, recent law requires that the eight known major food allergens, including wheat, be clearly identified on food labels. Health Canada has developed their own regulation, including a 2004 regulatory proposal to ensure that the eight common food allergens are listed by their common name in the ingredients. Interestingly, consumer uptake of gluten-free products has been much more rapid in Canada in recent years than in the United States. One explanation for the difference could be the attention being paid by health professionals to celiac disease in Canada. One of the more controversial issues in the development of gluten-free products is the choice of whether or not to include oats. Currently, the CCA is working with Health Canada to ensure that pure oats can be made available to its members. The gluten-free market offers significant opportunities for food companiesóbut the challenges with developing tasty and affordable products that guarantee purity are daunting. As celiac disease continues to become more prevalent, those food manufacturers that appreciate and address the inherent product development challenges will be the ones who will see success.