Sales of gluten-free bakery are booming, but manufacturers and retailers must do more to address issues such as cost, fat content and availability, said charity Coeliac UK.
Latest figures from data company IRI show supermarket sales of gluten-free bakery products were up 28% in the last year.
The data shows that gluten-free value sales were up 27.3% to £41.77m in the 52 weeks to 3 January 2015, while volume sales in kg were up 28% to 7.3m kg and unit sales were up 28.3% to 18.5m units over the same period.
Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac UK, the national charity for people with coeliac disease, said that gluten-free bakery ranges had become fairly comprehensive, although there was still a gap in the market for high-quality bread and bread-type products.
She commented: “There are issues around fat-content; fresh gluten-free bread was an innovation, but at the expense of a recipe with increased saturated fat and that is a concern.”
There was also a problem with the cost, with gluten-free bakery products often costing two or three times as much as standard bakery items. She said: “This is a significant issue. I know there are manufacturing issues, but I would like to see prices come down.”
Availability of gluten-free products could also be improved, she said, but Coeliac UK was pleased with the progress of its ‘Gluten Free Guarantee Scheme’, launched last year.
The campaign asked supermarkets to commit to having a basket of eight core items of gluten-free food in stock across all their stores, including white bread, flour, cereal bars, rolls, crackers and one other bread (brown or seeded). Asda was the first UK supermarket to fully commit to the campaign.
All Asda’s stores across the country, including its smaller stores signed up to the Gluten Free Guarantee. Retailers such as Waitrose, Tesco and Marks & Spencer were also working towards the Guarantee.
Sleet said: “Things have improved beyond recognition in the last few years in larger supermarkets, but many will be surprised that, for most people, shopping for gluten-free items is still a real challenge - especially if they only have access to smaller convenience stores. For this reason we are very pleased to see other leading supermarkets also working towards the Gluten Free Guarantee.”
Tesco sells 31 gluten-free bakery items online, including Warburtons’ Newburn bakery products and Genius products. Asda has a gluten-free bakery range of 19 lines, mainly from the Genius brand, with products on sale in the main bakery aisle.