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Is the Gluten-Free Trend Nearing its End, or is it Just the Beginning?

The advent of the gluten-free diet is an interesting one. Although the science behind celiac disease has long been understood, in recent years consumers have begun to associate a gluten-free diet with a number of health and lifestyle benefits. The diet has impacted both celebrities and small-town America in equal force, and although the science is still being debated, many have argued that the removal of gluten from their diets is a life-changing event.

A quick Google News search finds that the diet is still receiving considerable coverage, with articles like “Can a Gluten-Free Diet Ease Your Depression?” and “New ‘Going Gluten-Free Study’ Shows Diet Reduces Fatigue” popping up this morning alone. Most of the coverage tends to focus on the supposed benefits of the diet, with many claims concerning increased energy, lost weight and better mood attached to it.

However, it turns out, most Americans believe that the diet isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Mintel reports that nearly half (47%) of Americans believe gluten-free diets are a fad, up from 31% in 2013.

Here’s where things really get interesting.

Despite the growing belief from U.S. consumers that the diet is a fad, nearly 25% of consumers report that they consume gluten-free foods, a 67% increase from 2013. What’s more, some 90% of gluten-free consumers are satisfied with available the gluten-free options, with 35% going further by noting the quality of gluten-free foods has increased in recent years.

Mintel also notes that skeptical attitudes towards gluten-free products have done nothing to hinder sales of gluten-free foods, as the category experienced sales growth of 136% from 2013 to 2014. Sales have reached an estimated $11.6 billion in 2015, and gluten-free food sales exploded from 2.8% in 2013 to 6.5% in 2015.

I’ll let that sink in for a second.

These statistics are interesting because they are so counterintuitive. How can a diet, believed by many to be a fad, showcase such strong growth? Amanda Topper, Senior Food Analyst at Mintel, shares some insight:

“While some consumers view the gluten-free diet as a fad and are looking for improved nutrition and ingredients in gluten-free foods, consumption continues to trend upward. Large and small manufacturers are entering the gluten-free category, increasing the availability, quality and variety of gluten-free foods while Americans display interest in incorporating these foods into their diet,” she said.

Do you think the gluten-free trend is ready to wane, or is it just picking up steam?