Monday, September 10, 2012

The US is a TIER 1 Country in Gluten Free Products on the GFP Matrix - Compared to Mexico & Brazil

When analysing gluten free markets, the main question that people with celiac disease will ask is "what's in it for me" ? Having an understanding of markets such as Australia and America is fundamental to understanding how many more suppliers are likely to enter the market and so drive competition and choice. If you are celiac or a gluten free supplier, these are two words that you hold dear to your heart: choice and low price . To understand how close we are to a mature market (when maximum competition drives prices down) it is useful to compare several countries and communities within these.

This analysis is based on Google search terms (for the month of Dec 08) used in the gluten free market. As Google usually has a large market share in most countries and also has specific country domains, this provides a perfect baseline to compare gluten free markets across the world.

This article is set out in the following format:

    Identification Of the Four Gluten Free Market Tiers
    Introduction Comparison Of Communities By Their Market Tiers

GFP MATRIX: Identification Of the Four Gluten Free Market Tiers

So far four market levels (TIERS) have been identified.

A fully matured gluten free market has not been reached yet due to the low diagnosis of celiac disease even in developed countries. So far, analysis has shown that the most developed gf markets are those in Australia, the US and Canada. Characteristics of the e-demand side of these are a high number of search terms and high search volumes.

Of the search terms used in tier 1 communities , they are typically dominated by generic gluten free terms where the first 2 to 3 terms represent over 55% of the top 50 searches . This is the case in Australia, US (English speaking) and Canada (English). It is speculated that in these countries there are a significant number of celiacs who have been diagnosed for a few years. They originally searched for information on the disease and diets required and now prefer to spend more time searching for generic gluten free terms. By doing so they have found that on the supply side of things products have been amassed in the one place. This means that by searching on generic terms they can easily find large gluten free sites that contain many gluten free products on which they can search internally for specific terms. While generic searches are large, searches on the celiac group are still the second highest and account for over 15% of the top 50 searches . Within this group two terms 'celiac' and 'celiac disease' typically account for over 85% of all searches .

The next level of market maturity (tier 2) is shown by communities like US Spanish speaking and Canadian French speaking communities. These communities are often smaller than the dominant communities (often English) in their countries but they have first world affluence available to them. They often have under 100 total search terms over a twelve month average. In this example, US Spanish has 17 search terms and Canadian French have 30. The relatively high level of affluence within these communities increases the individual's chances of being diagnosed and pursuing a often more difficult and costly gluten free diet (as compared with tier 4 markets. These 'second tier' communities also have a high search proportion devoted to generic gluten free terms but there is also a higher proportion of searches (than found in tier 1 markets) devoted to finding information on celiac disease such as through celiac diet and/or wheat allergy searches.

The third market maturity (tier 3) is shown by communities such as Mexican English speaking (101 searches) and Brazilian English speaking (100 searches) communities. These communities are much smaller proportions of the country population than tier 2 markets. They are often much more affluent than the main population ethnicity (through education/ employment) or having come from more affluent countries such as America. They tend to not search so much for generic gluten free terms (less than 45%) but have an increase in searches for celiac diet searches and specific food groups. This pattern is indicative of newly diagnosed people (having access to good medical attention). The other main trait of this market is that it includes people who have had the disease for a while and are now seeking specialist gluten free products such as 'gluten free restaurants' or 'desserts' - rather than staple gluten free foods such as flour or breads.

Gluten Free Labeling Laws Are Strict in America (20 PPM) - But Are Not the Most Strict in the World!

At the core of any celiac shoppers shopping list is buying products that are gluten free. But what exactly does that mean? Do you buy foods that have no ingredients that could possibly contain gluten grains, or are you willing to risk buying foods that are classed as gluten free, because they contain an amount of gluten that 'someone' has assessed as safe?

It would appear that the more experienced celiac shopper knows what ingredients to look out for, however some very experienced gluten free shoppers still report feeling sick from manufactured foods purporting to be gluten free. As the information below will show, it all appears to be in the acceptable level that countries are willing to legislate.

The three most progressive legislation regions appear to be the US, Europe and Australia. These areas will be discussed in this order.


Previous GFP research suggests that Europe maybe one of the most gluten free aware regions on earth, however they have very low online search habits. This may of course be due to low rates of celiac disease and/ or high availability of gluten free food in the general community.

Regarding the labeling requirements: "In Europe, the Codex Commission approved 20ppm as an accepted threshold for gluten in 'gluten-free' products in 2008, in the first update to guidelines since 1983. The limit was massively cut from 200ppm to 20ppm - and it claims this level is considered to pose no risk to celiac sufferers. The reason for the change is that low levels are more easily attainable than 25 years ago due to technological advances allowing for more accurate detection of minute gluten traces."


The US is one of the largest physical and online demand gluten free markets in the world. With its progressive technological and health advances you may expect that it also leads global labelling laws.

However gluten free products appear to be an exception. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) introduced the Food Allergen Labeling & Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) in 2006, this was for the following eight food allergens "Milk, egg, wheat, soy, peanut, tree nuts, fish, and crustacean shellfish." By 2007 the FDA PROPOSED that gluten SHOULD be labeled at anything over 20mg per kg (20ppm) - but this has yet to be ratified.

Thus while many manufacturers are voluntarily following this guideline "Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found 25 different types of advisory term including 'may contain', 'shared equipment' and 'within plant'. Additionally, they found that 65 percent of products listed non-specific terms, such as 'natural flavours' and 'spices', and that 83 percent of those were not linked to any specific ingredients." This suggests that gluten could potentially be hiding among the non-specific terms.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What Is This Gluten Stuff?

Gluten is the trouble-making ingredient you're supposed to avoid when going on a gluten free diet. But how do you avoid something if you aren't sure what it is or where to find it? I'll admit, this can be a challenge. It's just not as obvious I'd like it to be, but once you learn how to spot it you'll feel more confident about grocery shopping. Also, knowing what gluten is and how it works in food can help you understand how to cook with gluten free ingredients.

What Is This Gluten Stuff?

Gluten is the stretchy gluey stuff that helps bread, pizza crust, and other baked goods get nice puffy air pockets. It creates a flexible structure that helps each baked good hang together without necessarily being tough or chewy. When a baker knows how to properly activate the gluten protein, it will start doing its thing. The presence of gluten has influenced baking techniques for decades, even centuries. Sorry, I'm not trying to build up gluten as some kind of magical essence that turns good food into great food. It's just one of many ingredients with useful properties out there in the world. It happens that wheat is commonly grown and used across the world, and it affects a lot of food in Western cultures.

Ready for a little science? Gluten is made up of two types of proteins - one is the gliadins, the other is the glutenins. In the digestive tract, these proteins each break down further into different peptides. These peptides are made of strings of amino acids, somewhat like a string of pearls. It's the make-up of some of these peptides that causes trouble for people with celiac disease. The gliadin variety of gluten proteins is the most damaging, but some research has shown adverse reactions to the glutenin proteins as well. OK, enough of the technical talk for now.

Where Does Gluten Lurk In My Food?

Up to this point, you have probably been picturing a wheat stalk as your eternal foe, your Kryptonite. Ah, but don't lull yourself into thinking that "wheat free" is synonymous with "gluten free". Wheat may be the most obvious grain to avoid, but gluten is also present in rye and barley. I can't honestly think of many products containing rye that wouldn't also have wheat in them (like cereal or bread). While you clearly have to look out for it, rye should be much easier to avoid than wheat.

Caramel coloring and malt flavoring are made from barley. Barley hops also have gluten in them, so all regular beer makes the "not safe" list. There are a few brands that are specifically labeled "gluten free" because they are brewed with completely different grains (and no barley whatsoever). Some beer companies have stated that "low barley beer" is safe for celiacs, but that seems like an unnecessary risk. Even if you have a mild sensitivity to gluten, you are still sensitive and a gluten free beer is the only safe option.

OK, so no pasta, no bread, no pizza, no regular beer, no cakes or cookies made with any sort of wheat-based flour? I wish I could say it was that easy. Through the miracles of modern food manufacturing, gluten-containing grains have been transformed in numerous widely used ingredients in all sorts of processed foods. Would you like a little malt flavoring (barley) in your cereal? How about a thickening agent (wheat flour) in your prepackaged chicken broth? What about that wheat-brewed soy sauce? And chip flavorings, and Play-Doh (not even a food!), and Twizzlers, and in your mixed nuts, in some processed meats, in your cosmetics, as a filler in some medications, toothpaste, and certain pasta sauces. The list of unbelievable hiding places goes on and on. Label-reading needs to become one of your earliest gluten free habits.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Is a Gluten-Free Diet Healthy?

Okay so I just saw the Dr. OZ video on gluten, the gluten diet and what he described as the myths surrounding the gluten diet. I think the purpose of the segment was to discuss the fad of a gluten-free diet as a way to lose weight and whether this is a healthy way to lose weight. The segment was a bit confusing regarding the real point he was trying to make so I thought I would discuss some points regarding a gluten-free diet, why it may be the healthiest thing for you, why people lose weight on a gluten-free diet, why a gluten-free diet may not be healthy for you, and what a gluten-free diet should not be.

First thing we should probably discuss is what is gluten?

Gluten in simple terms is a protein found in grains. The most problematic seem to be in wheat, barley, rye, and malt. But any of the grain foods can be problematic for someone for a number of reasons. I will cover more of these in a later article.

The real question is should you be on a gluten-free diet?

And the answer is may be. If you are sensitive or intolerant to gluten or its breakdown components or have Celiac Disease the answer is yes. If you are not gluten intolerant/sensitive or do not have Celiac Disease the answer is maybe. The maybe, is because we now know through research that gluten can cause cross-reactions with other food sensitivities and although you are not sensitive to gluten, eating it may make your other food sensitivities worse.

So how do you find out if you are gluten sensitive?

Well, Dr. OZ and his guest Dr. Hyman suggest you go totally gluten-free for two weeks, then add gluten back and see how you feel. While this sounds like an easy way to do it and some people notice improvement, others do this and feel no change and assume they therefore don't have a problem with gluten. There are multiple reasons a person may not notice any change:

1. Too short of a time period. I have many patients that don't notice changes until they have been off of gluten for longer periods of time.

2. They may be off gluten, but they are eating foods that can be cross-reactive like coffee, milk protein (casein), etc. These foods look similar enough to your immune system for some people that when they eat them, your body thinks its gluten and you get a response just like eating gluten. So this may not work for everyone.

3. You may have what is called "Leaky Gut Syndrome". Leaky Gut Syndrome simply means that your intestinal track has become too porous and is letting things like undigested food, bacterial toxins, etc. get into the blood stream. These undigested foods like rice protein or egg protein may continue an immune reaction even though you are off gluten and no change is noticed.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

In 2011 America Is the Strongest Gluten Free Online Market - See How the World Compares

Previously most of Gluten Free Pages research into the gluten free market has concentrated on the online gluten free market as data is regularly reliable and recent. However all previous research and analysis has centred on Google Broad search data.

To explain the difference in the data (broad, phrase, exact match), Google provides the ability to see data for anything in terms of Broad match, phrase match and exact match. It also uses these terms to set up adwords (pay per click online advertising) campaigns. You can also either personally search for things in their search engine using broad/ phrase/ exact match characteristics by using appropriate quotes and brackets.

Match type Significance to g-free market data

Broad match search data was used for GFP gluten free analysis because it included the full set of terms that people search for. In particular it was noticed in small markets (all countries below the top ten on a per capita basis), that using Google exact match would severely limit the data and knowledge that could be gained from the data sets.

For instances, China is an up and coming market. While this race may not be necessarily genetically pre disposed to celiac disease, the country has 1.3 billion people and potentially will either become a major importer or exporter of g-free products.

In broad match terms China regularly has 32 terms counted and a volume of 9,638 searches per month.  In Exact phrase matches, China records only five gluten free associated terms and only 812 searches. As you can see the volume decreases by a factor of ten. Also the only terms included in Nov 2010 data are gluten (320), celiac disease (140); gluten free (110); celiac (46) and celiac disease (28).

This means that the analysis misses out on understanding (using broad match analysis) that China also searches for g-free associated terms such as: gluten free rolls; gluten free recipes; gluten diet etc.

It would appear that the reason is that Google only displays data that reliably is in excess of ten searches a month. If Broad match to Exact match is typically a factor of ten, that means any terms under 100 searches a month in Broad phrase match, would not be displayed for exact match data- and for many countries, this removes many long tail terms. The table below shows that the difference between broad and exact search volumes is approximately a factor of ten.

Table of Search Volume and Term number for Gluten Free Broad and Exact Match search queries

...................VOLUMES................................................TERM No...........................Vol/Term

............. ......Broad Vol......Exact Vol.........   V Ratio...Broad...Exact.... T Ratio....V/T

UK................1,203,082......124,278..........    9.7..........600........313.....  1.9........5.1

USA.............9,199,229.......796,432..........    11.6.......793.........768.....  1.0........ 11.2

Australia....1,228,333........85,632............    14.3........657.......263......  2.5........ 5.7

Canada.......1,155,348.........97,599............  11.8.......606.........266.....  2.3........ 5.2

Ireland.........110,972.........6,529..............     17.0.......209.......28........  7.5........ 2.3

China...........9,638...............812.................    11.9...... 32..........5...........  6.4........ 1.9

India............70,804............7,153..............9.9..........   101........24........  4.2........ 2.4

Brazil............65,367.............9,710 ............6.7.......... 32..........5...........  6.4........ 1.1

Germany......98,191............13,923...........    7.1........ 103........15........  6.9........ 1.0

France.........151,135............10,065............15.0.....    82.........  10.........  8.2........ 1.8

Italy............47,405...............1,412 ............33.6........  63.........  8........... 7.9........ 4.3


The top five gluten free countries analysed areAmerica, Australia, Canada, Ireland and UK.

Americais the only country in terms of Broad match terms that comes close to recording a full 800 terms for gluten free associated terms. The reason that it doesn't is that Google includes terms that it thinks are associated with g-free (because of its analysis of search pattern algorithms) but they are too disparate to be included in this analysis. These terms are ones such as: quinoa, 'ezekiel bread' and 'what is gout'.

For the top four countries, the ratio between broad and exact match volumes is close to TEN. This is both a factor of broad match 'multiple counting' for terms as well as in exact mode many of the phrases not having a large enough or consistent volume to be counted.

An example for the USA is that 'gluten' has a broad match volume of 2.24 million out of 9.9 million 'g-free associated' searches for Oct 2010.  In EXACT MATCH mode, 'gluten' records  only 49,500 searches out of 672,000 'gluten free associated' searches. You can see in broad match mode that 'gluten' accounts for about 25% of all searches, while in exact mode 'gluten' accounts for only about 7% of searches. This is because gluten is in broad match mode is counted multiple times for terms such as: gluten. gluten free, gluten free diets.

However, the ratio of broad to exact match volumes provide more information about the nature of the long tail keywords (multiple term, small volume). Notice that Australia has the highest ratio of Broad to Exact match volumes. This most likely means that the long tail search phrases make up a significant volume in the market, and that people have a more refined search habit.

Comparing UK, Canada and Australia they all have a similar volume of broad match terms however Australia has a significantly lower exact match volume (causing the higher broad to exact match volume ratio). While this may seem to indicate that the 'real' or exact searches in Canada and the UK make them a stronger market, later in this report it will be seen that Australia, even for exact match analysis, still records the highest 'celiac search' value per month - a  measure of 'per capita' comparisons.

LOW VOLUME Match discussion

While the majority of countries have a broad to exact match volumes are typically around TEN some countries are substantially above or below this ratio. For instance in Europe, France(15) and Italy (34) are well above the ratio. Europe is a unique case for the online gluten free market because having a high population of Europeans (who are most susceptible to celiac disease) they would be expected to have a high per capita search value. This is why it remains a mystery that European countries generally have a relatively low 'celiac search' value.

On the graph below the leading northern European countries to be well above the celiac search curve (under performing). The table above also shows that France has a relatively high ratio of broad to exact TERM numbers of 8.2 (not its volume ratio). This suggests that while France has a low 'per capita' search value (especially compared to other high 'per capita wealth' countries) it has a relatively long tail of broad match keywords, showing that the market while relatively small, is still quite diverse.

The ratio of the broad to exact match 'Volume ratio' to the broad to exact 'Term ratio' for each country is a VERY good indicator of how the country is performing on a per capita or 'celiac search' basis. You can see that the leading 'celiac search' countries (UK, USA, Australia and Canada) tend to have the highest 'Volume ratio' to 'term ratio' ratio value.  All of the four countries (except America) have aratio of around 5. The reason that the US doesn't fit this pattern is that because of the sheer size of the market (has nearly 80% of the global search volumes for g-free associated terms) its broad and exact term numbers are both near the maximum value of 800 causing this ratio to be near 1.0. The other leading countries have broad to exact 'TERM NUMBER' ratios that are closer to 2.0.

Of the countries that have under 2,000 exact searches per month, the ratio of the volume ratio to the Term ratio provides insight into their markets. For instance all the leading gf countries have a ratio of near five, while the lower countries usually record a ratio of between 1 and 2. Any anomalies to this 'rule' suggests a market behaving different to its like peers.