The company launched premium gluten-free sausage brand The Black Farmer in 2010 and has announced it is sponsoring the research.
“It is so exciting to be working with a group of students from Lancaster University on this project, which in itself is fascinating,” said boss of the company Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones.
“They have a fresh approach and are as enthusiastic as I am to find out more. I’m sure they will come up with some interesting and revealing findings.”
Coeliac UK estimates one in 100 people in the UK has coeliac disease, but only a quarter of those are diagnosed and follow a gluten-free diet. Yet statistics indicate that more than 12M people – a staggering 80 times the number of diagnosed coeliacs – are following a gluten-free lifestyle from choice.
“I think it is a staggering statistic that many millions of people are following a gluten-free diet as a lifestyle choice,” said Emmanuel-Jones. “But we don’t really understand the reason why. Is it for health benefits? To lose weight? A fad? Celebrity-led? Or simply that if one member of the family needs to follow a gluten-free diet, then the rest of the family follows suit?
“And is it these people who are fuelling the massive growth in the free-from grocery market which has doubled in value in the last five years?”
Reach £540M by 2018
Worth £135M five years ago, the ‘free-from’ market grew to £355M in 2013–2014 and is growing at 19.9% year-on-year [Kantar Worldpanel, 52 weeks ending April 14, 2014]. Mintel has forecast that it would reach £540M by 2018.
Helen Meek, from Lancaster University Management School, said: “It is really interesting that so many people are choosing gluten-free diets as a lifestyle choice. Our marketing students will investigate the motivations behind these choices so we can gain a better understanding of these consumers’ behaviour and also provide recommendations to Black Farmer.
“This research project is also a fantastic practical learning experience for our students that will help to equip them with industry-relevant skills when they enter the workforce.”