One in five Irish people are regular gluten free shoppers: Bord Bia

Launching the study was Michael Kelleher from Goodness Grains with Orla Donohoe, bakery sector manager, Bord Bia (Picture: Colm Mahady / Fennell Photography 2017)

Bord Bia researches consumer attitudes to gluten free food for the first time



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19 April 2017

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Gluten free has now gone mainstream with one in five (20%) Irish people shopping for gluten free food regularly, according to new Bord Bia research. In fact, the gluten free market in Ireland is estimated to be worth some €66 million, experiencing a 36% increase since last year (Source: Kantar Worldpanel).

Highlighting where the growth has come from, Paula Donoghue, Bord Bia’s consumer insight manager noted that “the market has experienced an increase in the number of available products as well as double digit growth in supermarkets. There is a lot of noise around the topic, whether it is from celebrity advocates such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Novak Djokovic, or chefs, nutritionists and bloggers.”

Healthy lifestyle driver

BordBiaInfographicDespite only 1% of the Irish population having been medically diagnosed with coeliac disease, the research found that a gluten free diet is particularly popular amongst the upper and middle class earners, over-indexing in the Munster area. The desire for a healthy lifestyle is the key driver according to the research, with Donoghue noting, “As a nation, we’re increasingly conscious of our diet with 87% believing we have a healthy diet. Some 78% of Irish people who follow a gluten free diet are not diagnosed as coeliac. Nearly half of these (38%) do not have any intolerance to wheat or sensitivities, but perceive gluten free to be a healthier lifestyle choice.”

The need for education has come to the fore in the study as many respondents could not articulate what gluten was; however, they were confident about where to both find and avoid it. Those that don’t follow a gluten free diet believe it is a fad, expensive and that it doesn’t taste as good, as well as determining that gluten free products may have higher sugar and fat content. Donoghue says that Irish food companies can help play a part in addressing any confusion on their specific product offerings.

Recommendations for the Irish food industry

Bord Bia believes a huge opportunity exists for the Irish food industry in the gluten free sector. Bord Bia’s research found that baking and cooking ingredients such as sauces, frozen foods, noodles and alcoholic drinks were the areas shoppers indicated as poor offerings. “Now is the time for food producers to increase availability as demand is there,” Donoghue said.

There is considerable scope to move beyond ambient offerings and to expand snacking and convenience lines in particular. Consumers are also wary of what is lost in terms of nutritional content and what replaces gluten. This presents an opportunity for food manufacturers to meet long-term dietary needs of these shoppers through fortification in calcium or fibre.

Export opportunities

Bord Bia delivered the research results at an insight session in Bord Bia’s new research centre, the Thinking House, to over 35 businesses. Presentations by BordBia, Kantar Worldpanel and Alternis, a Swiss gluten free company, also explored export opportunities in the fast growing gluten free market.

According to Orla Donohoe, Bord Bia’s bakery sector manager: “The global market for gluten free products is worth $3.5 billion and growing at 5% annually with some European markets growing at over 20%. Bord Bia has profiled a number of the fastest growing export markets and our plans include trade show attendance, market visits and business development projects with exporters”.

The full research is available at






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