One in 5 eating gluten-free despite only 1% of people being coeliac

Less than 50,000 have been medically diagnoses as having the disease

New research shows that one in five Irish people are shopping for gluten free food regularly, with the market in Ireland is estimated to be worth some €66 million.

However, despite more people opting to go sans-gluten, only 1% of people have been medically diagnosed with coeliac disease. 

Conducted by Bord Bia, the research reflects a 36% increase in market value on last year.

A gluten-free diet is particularly popular among the upper and middle class earners, over indexing in the Munster area.

Why are people going gluten-free?

Just under 40% of  those surveyed are choosing to follow a gluten-free diet as a lifestyle choice, (38%) while 40% eat gluten-free because they are gluten intolerant. Those with coeliac disease or a wheat allergy make up 22%.

Paula Donoghue, Bord Bia’s Consumer Insight Manager put the growth down to the increased discussion surrounding the topic, as well as gluten-free products becoming more widely available.

“Traditionally, gluten free offerings were only available in pharmacies or health food stores, whereas now there is proliferation right across the retail chain," she said. "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.”

What is gluten?

Gluten refers to the proteins found in cereal grain’s endosperm - a type of tissue produced in seeds that are ground to make flour.

Despite many respondents being unable to explain what gluten is, most 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.