Researchers from India and the US say that India has the largest population of celiac disease sufferers in the world — numbering in the millions — but the amount of gluten-free food available to them and other health-conscious consumers falls far short of the need.
Currently the only treatment for celiac disease is a strict, 100% gluten-free diet.
Gluten is commonly used in baking as a binder within flour.
Celiac disease is a systemic autoimmune syndrome activated by a reaction to gluten — a type of protein in grain such as wheat, barley and rye. Symptoms include chronic inflammation of the small intestine, with extensive consequences if untreated — ranging from diarrhoea to gastro-intestinal cancer.
According to the report published by the Institute of Agri-Business Management (IABM), India produced 7.55 kilo tonnes of gluten-free food in 2016, compared to the potential for 2,347 kilo tonnes.
Some of the reasons for this include the lack of celiac disease diagnosis or gluten-free products, the difference in taste preferences in products offered by Western countries and the low quality of local products.
Gluten-free potential for food manufacturers
India has only fulfilled about 10% of its potential for gluten-free food, and manufacturers could tap into the market potential and fill the gap.
Furthermore, India’s market share for 2016 to 2020 is expected to grow at a rate of 8.7%. For Asia-Pacific, it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.7%, from 2015 to 2020.
A foreseeable increase in the rate of diagnosis and awareness about quality gluten-free foods in the future are among contributing factors.
“Coming five years would provide ample of [sic] opportunities to global brands of gluten-free products to make their steps in Indian markets through existing channels, especially in big cities where people have already started demanding for better products,” said the researchers.
Growing demand for better processed food
In India, rising disposable income and health-consciousness have been driving the increasing demand for better processed food.
Likewise, the demand for gluten-free processed food products such as crackers, breads, biscuits and cookies has risen in recent years.
“In big cities like Delhi, Chandigarh, Jaipur and Bangalore, people are also demanding gluten-free pizza, pasta and noodles. Few exclusive gluten-free restaurants also opened in big cities of India. Northern India is majorly wheat-consuming belt, thus potential of gluten-free food is maximum here,” stated Jolly Masih, researcher from IABM and main author of the report.
“In India, mainly flour and mixes lead the market segment of gluten-free foods but, along with increasing awareness, people are getting attracted towards other food categories like snacks, pizza, pasta, fast foods and desserts,” she said.
The report also said that bakeries in India now offer customised snacks, cakes and cookies.
The challenge of price
Nonetheless, high product prices, the lack of awareness about the products and an inefficient value chain for gluten-free products could be inhibitors.
The report cites The Packaged Facts that 53% of consumers of gluten-free foods thought they were overpriced, and 41% said they would buy more such products if they were more affordable.
The researchers suggested offering attractive product combos at reasonable prices, smaller-sized packaging for flour, cookies, biscuits and noodles, as well as using online promotions and e-commerce to reach those in cities further out — which has so far has been effective.
Source: International Journal of Current Microbiology and Applied Sciences (IJCMAS), 2017.
"Study on Gap Estimation between Market Potential and Market share of Gluten-Free Market”
Authors: Jolly Masih, Amita Sharma, Ashish Sharma and Jonathan Deutsch.