If you’ve walked through a grocery store in the past decade, you’ll have noticed a prominent “Gluten Free” label on products in every aisle. After all, the gluten-free diet has become one of the world’s top diet trends. Correspondingly, gluten-free products have gone from obscure specialty health foods to ubiquitous staples on mainstream food retailers’ shelves.

Approximately 1% of the worldwide population has been diagnosed with celiac disease (CD), an autoimmune disorder caused by gluten – a protein found in wheat, rye, kamut, spelt, malt, and barley – yet the global gluten-free food market is currently an estimated $5.6 billion. We can predict, then, that demand for gluten-free products is being driven by people who can tolerate gluten but are going gluten free by choice.

However, as mounting evidence from sources like Harvard Medical School suggests that a gluten-free diet doesn’t benefit – and may even be harmful to – people without non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) or CD, gluten-free products may wane in popularity. Additionally, diets like the paleolithic (paleo) and ketogenic (keto) diets are gaining momentum, spurring their own demand for special food products. Grocers must thus question whether gluten free is worth investing in further or divesting from in favor of other in-demand foods.

Here’s what grocers need to know about the gluten-free diet and other food retail trends to anticipate in 2021.

The Rise of Gluten-Free Products in Food Retail Stores

Since the gluten-free diet was discovered in the 1940s, instances of NCGS and CD have risen steadily in correlation with the increase in prepared and packaged foods made with wheat flour. Nowadays, you can find a gluten-free alternative to almost any food – like bread, noodles, cereal, sauces, baked goods, and even beer – on all major food retailers’ shelves.

Celebrities and athletes are partly responsible for the surge in the gluten-free diet’s popularity (some tout the benefits of going gluten free to lose weight). And with the prevalence of social media in our lives over the past decade or so, celebrity influencers have been able to spread their ideologies quickly. But for how long can the gluten-free diet sustain its position until the next food trend sweeps it away?

Food Retail Trends to Watch in 2021

Despite no rise in cases of CD, Medical News Today reports consistent growth of gluten-free product sales and predicts the diet isn’t going away anytime soon. However, as diets come and go, you’d be remiss not to stay on top of emerging food trends that may vie for your customers’ attention.

To ensure you’re making the right buying decisions and balancing your product stock to meet consumer demand, keep an eye out for these four food retail trends in 2021.

Plant-Based Foods

Plant-based food sales have surged in the past couple of years and will only increase as products improve. And vegans and vegetarians aren’t the only ones propelling the plant-based food trend: According to a Gallup poll, nearly 23% of Americans have cut back their meat intake, citing their health and the environment as primary reasons for doing so.

Excellence Industries Food Retail Trends for 2021: Is Gluten Free Still on Top?

If your grocery store doesn’t already have a designated area for plant-based foods, it would be wise to carve out a section of your freezer units for beyond-beef burgers, cauliflower pizza crusts, and veggie sausages.

Frozen Foods

People are grocery shopping less often but spending more money each time, and as such, frozen foods are seeing an uptick in popularity in 2021. Frozen foods are convenient and quick, and ready-to-serve meals allow families to spend more time together than in the kitchen.

Consider stocking your freezer units with a variety of frozen breakfast, lunch, and dinner foods, as well as a mix of plant-based and gluten-free alternatives to cater to all your customers’ dietary preferences.


As more Americans work from home, people have more time to eat what is deemed the most important meal of the day. From thaw-and-serve breakfast sandwiches to frozen fruit for smoothies, the breakfast category is a big one this year. And as people increasingly opt to make their coffees at home instead of stopping by their favorite cafes two or three times a day, refrigerated cooling units stocked with flavored creamers and dairy alternatives are gaining traction.

Immune Support

Finding ways to boost the immune system is top of mind for most families these days. People want food and drinks containing vitamins and minerals that will not only help them stay healthy but also prevent any future illnesses. Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and kelp provide a ton of immune support. And as an added bonus, they last significantly longer than fresh produce, so there’s no need to worry about them expiring.

As Americans prioritize convenience and spending time with their families, and as evidence increasingly cautions against a gluten-free diet for those who don’t need it, food retail stores may start to see a shift in product demand. That said, gluten-free foods are still flying off shelves, so this particular diet may just prevail. By keeping up with emerging diet trends and conducting your own research, you can ensure your products are stocked to meet your customers’ tastes.

Are you looking to increase your refrigerated cooling units or freezers to meet the demand for retail food trends? Contact us to find out how Excellence Industries can help.