Consumer habits have changed considerably in recent years, with many people looking for a cleaner, healthier diet, but is that the key driver for the continued growth of the free from sector? It’s difficult to know for sure.
In the case of those suffering with an intolerance to gluten, whilst there has been a considerable increase in the number of diagnoses and general consumer awareness, intolerances aren’t so black and white, with many falling on a spectrum.
Celiac (Coeliac) disease is at the most extreme end of said spectrum and is an autoimmune disease with a whole host of symptoms brought on by the consumption of gluten. There are no medical or surgical treatments to celiac disease; it can only be controlled by a strict, lifelong gluten free diet. According to non-profit Beyond Celiac, 1 in 133 people are affected by celiac disease, with 83% of sufferers being undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who suffer from an intolerance to gluten. In this case similar symptoms to celiac are witnessed, but without the autoimmune damage to the small intestine.
There has also been extensive research into why more people are being diagnosed with a gluten intolerance compared to previous generations, but more work needs to be done in this area to prove if there has been a significant change in the genetic make-up of grains like wheat and barley in recent years.