General Mills, Hain Celestial, Boulder Brands Seeing Green in Gluten-Free Food

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- People with certain allergies are finding relief eating gluten-free food. That has put some of the biggest players in the food industry into an area where they can expect a substantial increase in revenue and volume sales for the next few years.

We're talking about you General Mills (GIS), Hain Celestial (HAIN) and others.

The recently released Global Gluten-free Food Market 2014-2018 report from by Research and Markets, says the market's compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in terms of revenue will increase by 11.4% while volume CAGR will rise by 9.9% over the period of 2013 to 2018.

The combined effect of changing consumer lifestyles and increasing number of celiac disease patients contribute to the global gluten-free trend, which is most popular in North America.

Market research firm Mintel said the P10.5 billion industry grew by 44% in sales between 2011 and 2013 alone. And when it comes to size, it should be pointed out that 24% of consumers eat or have someone in their household who eats gluten-free food.

A gluten-free diet, which first gained prominence as a way to deal with celiac disease, has become extremely popular among health buffs who believe that it helps alleviate abdominal and intestinal problems, among other things.

An earlier release by Mintel said the gluten-free food and beverage market will grow as much as 48% from 2013 to 2016, to a $15.6 billion industry, at current prices.

Such figures are not surprising since new surveys show the general populace has a favorable view of the trend. The NPD Group said its survey revealed that one in four consumers believe that a gluten-free diet is good for everyone, even those without celiac disease.

Besides General Mills and Hain Celestial, sellers of gluten-free food include privately held Amy's Kitchen, Boulder Brands (BDBD), Domino's Pizza (DPZ), Kellogg (K) and Raisio (RTHVF).

General Mills has a gluten-free alternative in almost all of its Betty Crocker baking products and Chex cereals. Its first marketing shift to gluten-free food was in 2008 when it came out with Rice Chex. Its baking products followed suit.

Meanwhile, Hain Celestial caters to the all-natural organic food niche market. It has its own gluten-free product page on its Web site, which features milk, soups, baking mixes, ice cream and pasta items.

Boulder Brands has its own Glutino product line, a pioneer in the gluten-free category. It also acquired Udi's Gluten Free Foods, which also produces pastries and pasta. Both Hain Celestial Group and Boulder Brands showed promising growth in the stock market over the last couple of years thanks, in part, to the shift in consumer demand for healthy food.

Even restaurants are riding the gluten-free diet trend with another survey claiming that 52% of restaurant chains will be adding gluten-free dishes to their menus this year. Restaurant supply-chain co-op SpenDifference said its latest menu price survey reflect the growing demand for low-calorie and gluten-free menu items.

Of the restaurants surveyed, 55% said they already have gluten-free menu items. With niche brands and restaurants among the gluten-free pioneers, bigger companies are expected to follow suit and work to gain more market share and a healthier stock price.

At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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