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.