Why Diabetic Foods Aren't as Big as Gluten Free

March 08, 2016

One affects 9.3% of the population, and the other one affects only one percent.

If you have not tried it yourself, you probably know someone in your life who has gone gluten free (GF). The food industry has jumped and capitalized on this eating trend by filling the supermarket shelves with products to support this way of eating, and it doesn't stop there as many restaurants have also added gluten-free options to their menus. In fact the top 15 pizza chains including Pizza Hut, Domino's, CPK, and even Chuck E. Cheese offer gluten free crusts! According to Mintel research, GF food sales grew from 2.8% in total food sales in 2013 to 6.5% in 2015. 

Celiac Disease affects about one percent of the population, and it is generally thought of to be an inherited disease. However, consumers are crazy for the “gluten-free” way, even if they don’t have Celiac Disease - many citing having a gluten intolerance, it helps with weight loss, or they just feel better and less bloated on this type of diet. 

But let’s take a look at another diet-related disease, which has a much bigger impact on the American population, but at the same time, the food products haven’t been marketed in the same way as GF. Diabetes affects about 9.3% of population with the vast majority being Type 2 and occurring more and more in children rather than just adults. It is also the seventh leading cause of death in the US. Unequivocally, Diabetes is a health crisis.  It is time for our food brands to wake up and have the same type of innovation we have witnessed for GF. Additionally, the new Dietary Guidelines called out the need to reduce sugar consumption for all Americans. 

While food companies are staying on the GF trend and considering other “free from” trends, the sugar-free food category is in need of brands passionate for creating products that will serve all consumers on a much broader level than GF foods. This trend can be compared to the GF trend in that while 9.3% of the population that are diabetic must eat sugar free foods to maintain their health, eating less sugar is for many non-diabetics a hot topic for nutrition and wellness in general. Slumping soda sales alone show us that cutting down on sugar is a choice that is spreading, and poised to be bigger and more of a necessity than GF.

So why haven't shoppers flocked to the sugar free trend as quickly as they did to gluten free? We at The Lempert Report feel that Diabetes has much more of a stigma attached than Celiac Disease which for the majority of followers is a diet choice rather than a necessity. If retailers and CPG brands approached the recipes, marketing and labeling of these foods as sugar free, it would fuel a huge trend and change our overall health, wellness and waistlines. “Sugar-Free” is more empowering and friendlier than calling products out for "being made for Diabetics."