Prices Up ⬆️ Selection Down ⬇️ for Celiac Shoppers

cost gluten free dietOngoing availability issues in the free-from aisles could ‘potentially compromise the health of customers’, said Coeliac UK

  • Niamh Leonard-Bedwell, 1

Many gluten-free shoppers have struggled to find their favourite goods and faced price increases over the past six months, according to new research.

  • Eighty-seven per cent of 1,891 gluten-free shoppers quizzed by Coeliac UK said they had seen a reduction in the number of gluten-free foods available in the past six months.
  • Additionally, 92% of 946 respondents said they seen price increases on gluten-free product ranges.

Coeliac UK director of fundraising and commercial services Helen North said supermarkets needed “to ensure they keep prioritising product ranges and aisle space for what is a sustainably growing market”.

“Not to do so would not only risk missing out on their custom but could potentially compromise the health of those customers.”

Nurture Brands MD Adam Draper said:

  • “We do tend to hear that buyers are seeking to reduce their range, which means a reduction in brand choice and a consolidation around the dominant brands. This is slightly counterintuitive as gluten-free as a trend is increasing and many people are choosing to adopt gluten-free diets for lifestyle rather than medicinal reasons.

“Manufacturing where you need to clean-down for allergens and ensure your supply chain is gluten-free is simply more expensive than not doing so,” Draper added. “The whole supply chain and manufacturing process require much greater supervision, and this means it is generally more expensive. So, where labour costs are increasing, allergen-free products suffer a higher degree of inflation.”

Indeed, analysis by The Grocer earlier this year found prices for free-from ambient bakery, for instance, rose 4.7% per kg in the 52 weeks to 18 April, with average prices for branded products up 5.8% [Kantar].

Just this month, there have been a number of price hikes on popular gluten-free lines, data shows. Old El Paso’s Gluten Free 518g Enchilada Kit and Gluten Free Fajita Kit 462g, for instance, was up from £2.99 to £4.50 in Tesco on 9 December. The price of Nairn’s Gluten Free Pepper Crackers 137g, meanwhile, and Nairn’s Gluten Free Seeded Crackers 137g, rose from £1.70 to £1.80 in Tesco on 14 November [Assosia 6 w/e 14 December 2021].

The Grocer has approached both brands for comment.

A spokeswoman for gluten-free cakes brand Mrs Crimble’s told The Grocer that while the category had not “been affected more than other foods” by inflation, “what we have seen is a growing trend towards retailers dedicating space to own-label ranges over branded gluten-free products”.

“It’ll be key for retailers to have a more balanced fixture and not squeeze branded ranges in favour of own label.”

Nick Croft-Simon, co-founder of free-from pizza brand White Rabbit, added: “Fortunately, we haven’t seen any reductions in our range. However, we know from buyers that consumer expectations within free-from is much higher than it was.

“Consumers are becoming increasingly discerning about taste, authenticity and the quality of ingredients used… A reduction in offerings within this category could be due to products not hitting these expectations.”

  • Gluten-free brands are facing commodity pressure: the price of rice flour, for instance – a key ingredient in gluten-free baking – rose due to supply difficulties this year, according to Mintec.

“I have heard that we are reaching a point in the UK where the whole supply chain for gluten-free oats is almost entirely maximised and that demand globally is very high, which means competition for supply and rising prices,” added Draper. “I would expect gluten-free oats, amongst other gluten-free ingredients, to become scarcer and for prices to increase, which will drive inflation.”

According to Kantar data, Brits spent an extra £496.1m in the free-from aisle over the past year, as they stockpiled staples such as pasta.