January 2, 2011
The High Cost of Gluten-Free Products
I understand that gluten-free products use ingredients that differ from their gluten containing counterparts. Since I mostly bake from scratch, I know that purchasing gluten-free flours and starches is more expensive than buying wheat flour. For that reason, I would expect to pay a little more for gluten-free products. A little more. Not a whole lot more. Having said that, though, it seems that the prices I pay for those baking ingredients are higher than they need to be. Why is potato starch so much more expensive than corn starch?
More and more people are embarking on a gluten-free diet every day, and the gluten-free market is booming. Demand for gluten-free products is up, but it is still only a fraction of the demand for gluten filled products. For that reason I would also expect gluten-free products to cost a little more. A little more. Not a whole lot more. While we’re on the subject, since demand for gluten-free products has gone up in recent years, shouldn’t prices come down a little?
Another issue raised at the summit is that many gluten-free products do not go on sale. A few companies offer coupons for their products, but very few.
Where That Leaves Us
I think a lot of us end up feeling that we are being taken advantage of. We have to eat gluten-free, and if we want packaged food (including single ingredients such as flour) we are limited in our choices, all of which are overpriced. We pay $5 - $7 for a very small loaf of bread because it’s good, and it’s better than the other very small loaves of gluten-free bread that sell for the same price. We either pay the high prices or go without.
I would personally love to see a company provide safe, certified gluten-free products and ingredients at prices that are competitive with regular prices. If the products are good, I believe the gluten-free community would flock to that company and show their support by buying their products. What they would lose in profit on each product would more than be made up for in the volume they would sell.
What are your thoughts on the the high cost of gluten-free products?
Labels: gluten-free diet
Gluten free products are too expensive. With demand increasing, I hope that food ingredient suppliers and processors will be able to increase production and efficiency and, as you said, make a little less profit per item because they are selling greater quanitites.
I will say, though, that I appreciate the wide variety of gluten free products that are available now.
One of the ways that I save money on gluten free foods, besides cooking from scratch as much as possible, is to make occasional trips to a grocery outlet store. I don't always find gluten free foods there, but when I do, I stock up. Last year, I bought several months worth of gluten free pasta for half what usually pay!
Thanks for your great blog, and have a wonderful 2011!
However, I unfortunately fell in LOVE with Zing bars. They are so delicious and filling and I tend to eat them at least 5 times a week. Problem? They are $2.69 PER BAR. Yeah....my Zing bar addiction is going to have to end. ;)
For a product to meet the labelling requirements to be "gluten free" they are almost certainly going to have to be using a manufacturing plant dedicated to non-gluten products. The dangers of cross contamination make it financially (and legally) impractical.
This is all conjecture of course but it seems a practical answer for the difference - certainly for those of us in the UK anyway!
Obviously gluten free consumers want safe products made in an exclusively gf environment but the gf marketplace is very small compared to 'normal' consumers so it is harder to establish a big enough market-share to make production viable.
On top of that, consider that most ingredients are produced in factories that also handle wheat or gluten containing lines, so they cannot be sold as gluten free. So a gf producer has to source all their ingredients from other producers catering to this small gluten free market who are also producing their ingredients in safe, gluten free environments.
There is no way round the fact that if you want genuinely safe gluten free foods then they are going to be more expensive.
As a gluten free food producer, I know it is very, very hard to manufacture good quality foods and maintain reasonable prices, and I would love to see cheaper prices.
On the other hand, as a consumer, I question cheap gluten free food and wonder just how safe the sourcing and manufacturing policies are. Personally, I would always prefer to pay more and know that I am safe, even if that means that most manufactured gluten free foods are occassional treats rather than regular foods in my diet.
I can use a GF flour you get in the supermarket, but the flour is course and does not yield me a product tastes like its glutinous counterpart. I want a cupcake that tastes like a cupcake, not a corn muffin. So I must get my flours extra finely milled and shipped from the other side of the country. Shipping costs half the price of my products, sometimes just as much, and I am buying about 300 pounds of it at a time. I am not even taking into consideration the time I take to blend those flours once the arrive. As breads and cakes have different blends.
I picked up coconut milk yogurt from UNFI the other day. It sells wholesale for $2 per 6 oz container and $2.59 in Kroger. So it tells you that they are not making a lot of money that the cost of food is high.
I feel your pain as one that eats allergen free, and I feel it even more as baker. Demand will drop the prices. But we are a way off from that.
I agree that we should be eating mostly naturally gf foods, and I'm not trying to promote a processed food diet. As was mentioned, though, even things like gluten free pasta and oatmeal are very expensive. I also agree that we need to be willing to pay more for good food. That is something I have been adjusting my thinking on the past year.
I appreciate the point brought up about gluten free certification. I honestly had not thought about the cost of certification. I would be interested in know how much that does cost companies.
Thanks for a great discussion!
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