More Than a Trend
Formula for success: The many benefits of gluten-free certification.
By Chris Rich
When it comes to food and beverage products, gluten-free is big business, and demand is growing. The global gluten-free products market is expected to reach $33.05 billion by 2025, according to a report by Grand View Research Inc. The expected growth is on account of rising incidences of celiac disease and diabetes, as well as obesity across the developed economies, according to the report. Clearly, going gluten-free is more than a passing trend. For food and beverage manufacturers, the gluten-free market offers a golden opportunity to grow business by meeting the needs of consumers with special diets.
One way manufacturers can receive guidance and validate their gluten-free products is by pursuing gluten-free certification. For consumers with gluten sensitivity, being well-informed about their food products is imperative because even a tiny particle of gluten can cause serious illness. Today’s consumers are well-educated about nutrition and look for reassurance that gluten-free food is packaged safely.
For Molly Hamilton, owner and founder of Molly’s Bakeovers, and Melissa Hughes, quality assurance specialist for Alter Eco Foods, obtaining gluten-free certification has been a competitive advantage. For Hamilton, one of the most valuable benefits of gluten-free certification is the guidance Molly’s Bakeovers receives on training, testing and avoiding cross-contamination, and it’s not just for her company. When Molly’s Bakeovers changed its third-party co-packers, Hamilton looked for co-packers that had completed independent, third-party audits to verify that they met standards for packaging gluten-free products.
Especially as a small business competing for coveted retail shelf space across the country, consumers and retailers want transparency more than ever. Most retailers prefer manufacturers to verify that their food products are certified gluten-free through a third-party.
The insistence on gluten-free certification has resonated with consumers. Shoppers often ask Hamilton during in-store demos about whether the company’s products are certified. Achieving certification is a reflection on a brand that it makes the investment to back up its gluten-free claims. “It’s checks and balances. It’s food; it’s people’s lives. You want to do it,” Hamilton says. Alter Eco Foods strives to use dedicated gluten-free facilities or lines for the manufacturing of its organic chocolate products, Hughes said.
Alter Eco Foods is a fair trade company that focuses on full circle sustainability, and works closely with many farms, co-manufacturers and co-packers around the world to bring their products to market. Third-party certification audits of the facilities on an annual basis, providing detailed reports that help Alter Eco Foods ensure high quality standards. Additionally, robust gluten-free certification programs require the use of validated testing methods, which is important because not all gluten testing methods are validated, Hughes said.
Not all certification programs are created equal, as well. When pursuing gluten-free certification, look for the following:
1. The most robust certification organizations certify each product individually, not just a blanket certification for a manufacturer.
2. Certification should include an audit conducted by an independent third party. Be wary of certifications that allow manufacturers to self-certify.
3. Make sure certification requires manufacturers to engage in rigorous proficiency testing.
4. The certifying organization should provide ongoing monitoring through annual audits and quarterly testing.
5. Manufacturers that source food from different countries should seek certifications with international recognition.
In the competitive retail market for food and beverage products, manufacturers must find ways to make their products stand out on crowded store shelves. Companies like Molly’s Bakeovers and Alter Eco Foods are discovering that gluten-free certification is a winning ingredient in their formula for success.
Chris Rich is vice president of development for the nonprofit Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), the industry leader in the certification of gluten-free products and food services through its programs, Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) and Gluten-Free Food Services (GFFS) Certification. Chris became a part of the gluten-free community when his son was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2013, and he is an advocate for gluten-free kids and teens. For more information, visit www.gluten.org, and contact Chris at Chris.Rich@gluten.org.