The cost of gluten-free foods – a barrier to compliance?

By Charlotte Foster BSc Hons, MSc, RD.

 

One common culinary conundrum surrounding the gluten-free diet is cost! At present, most gluten-free products tend to be more expensive than gluten containing equivalents (1&2).

 

Studies have been conducted to examine the barrier of cost and whether it influences compliance to the gluten-free diet, highlighting mixed results. One study reported that 51.3% of participants felt that the cost of gluten-free products was an important issue but 75.3% felt this did not make the gluten-free diet difficult to adhere to (3). However, another study demonstrated the opposite- that cost is an important factor affecting compliance to the diet (4).

 

 

So why are processed gluten-free foods usually more expensive?

 

There are several reasons for why gluten-free foods tend to be more expensive including:

 

  • Growing consumer demands in what used to be a specialist “niche” market – the demand for an extensive product range has only been developed in recent years (5).

 

  • Complex processing steps involved to ensure a satisfactory gluten-free equivalent food (5).

 

  • Additional safety and quality checks to ensure that foods are meeting the standards for those with coeliac disease (5).

 

  • Increased cost of ingredients and equipment to ensure no cross contamination (5).

 

 

Gluten-free on prescription

 

Those who have been formally diagnosed with coeliac disease may be eligible to receive certain gluten-free products on prescription which can be financially beneficial. However, due to budget cuts in the NHS certain areas may be exempt – speak to a GP or dietitian for further information.

 

Certain gluten-free foods that may be prescribed include:

 

  • Cereals

 

  • Crackers/Crisp breads

 

  • Bread

 

  • Pizza bases

 

  • Flour

 

  • Pasta

 

  • Oats

 

 

Coeliac UK are currently campaigning to see the protection of prescriptions. Click here to find out more information. 

 

 

Nutritional Evidence Gluten Free Bread Banner

 

 

Other tips for keeping the cost down:

 

If getting gluten-free foods on prescription is not an option there are still some simple tips you can try to help close the financial gap!

 

  • Keep gluten-free breads in the freezer and take slices out to use on an “as needs” basis.

 

  • Base dishes around naturally gluten-free foods vs processed gluten-free alternatives.

 

  • Batch cook and bulk out! Use beans, pulses, fruits and vegetables to make dishes nutritious and delicious, bulking them out last longer.

 

  • Plan ahead and stick to your shopping list!

 

  • Take advantage of offers and supermarket deals.

 

Coeliac UK have compiled a free and helpful fact sheet for following a gluten-free diet when on a budget. Click here to read more.

 

 

Further information:

 

 

 

 

References:

 

(1):Stevens, L. and M. Rashid (2008) Gluten-free and regular foods: a cost comparison. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research 69(3); 147-150.

 

 

(2):Lee, A.R., et al.,(2007) Economic burden of a gluten-free diet. Journal of Human Nutrition & Dietetics 20(5); 423-430.

 

 

(3):Leffler, D.A., et al., (2008) Factors that influence adherence to a gluten-free diet in adults with celiac disease. Digestive Diseases and Sciences 53(6); 1573-1581.

 

 

(4):Hall, N.J., G. Rubin, and A. Charnock (2009) Systematic review: adherence to a gluten-free diet in adult patients with coeliac disease. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 30(4); 315-30.

 

 

(5):Coeliac UK (2016) Campaigning on the cost of gluten-free. Available at https://www.coeliac.org.uk/about-us/news/campaigning-on-the-cost-of-gluten-free/  [last accessed 25/4/16].