As of August 5, 2014 the label “Gluten-Free” will have a specific meaning in law. Previously, companies could choose to label their foods as gluten free if they wanted to regardless of the actual ingredients in the food. The new law requires foods to have less than 20 parts per million of gluten before they can be labeled “Gluten Free.” This is the early stages of a much bigger situation, and all brands involved should be on top of their Food PR game and have a set strategy to ensure that their Gluten Products are still in good market standing. This can be done through effective communication and a brand voice that evokes confidence throughout the market.
Marketing for Gluten Free Food Products
The law is intended to assist individuals who have celiac disease. Those with the disease become very ill if they consume even small amounts of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. The prevalence of celiac disease in European populations and in the U.S. population of European descent is estimated to be around 1 out of every 100 individuals, affecting 3 million individuals in the United States alone.
Who else avoids Gluten?
In addition to the three million Americans with celiac disease an estimated 18 million more have a condition called gluten sensitivity. Gluten-free diets are not exclusive to those who have the disease or a gluten sensitivity. Gluten-free products have become a major health fad in urban centers like New York and San Francisco and are completely taking over the food industry. Gluten-free products are now becoming synonymous with “health” and are making their way into major health markets like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
Trust in foods restored
Food manufacturers have had a year to prepare for the new rule. An estimated 5% of foods previously labeled as “gluten free” were actually not, reports Food Navigator. People who become ill from eating gluten should be very pleased with the new rules. Previously, eating any packaged food could set off a bout of illness. Many individuals with celiac and gluten sensitivity used to spend hours reading ingredient labels, calling manufacturers to question them about supposedly gluten-free foods and compiling “safe brands” lists by consulting with other sufferers. Now, affected individuals can shop and eat with confidence.
The new rules also draw attention to the fact that there is an actual important health reason for some individuals to avoid gluten. It has become “trendy” for people to follow gluten-free diets even if they don’t really need to. For example, many people following certain low-carbohydrate diets avoid gluten-containing foods even though consuming gluten will not make them overtly ill. The gluten-free trend may have been a factor behind some companies choosing to label foods as “gluten free” even when they were not, losing sight of the real reason why foods need to be labeled “gluten free” and why the label has to have some kind of legal meaning. Even more crucial then ever, a strong communications program needs to be in place for all brands affected. If not, you and your brand risk getting swept under the regulation carpet in a massive loss of trust for your brand.