Millennials and Gen Z are leading gluten-free demand in GCC region



The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has one of the youngest populations in the world.

According to The Middle East Journal of Age and Aging Population, the region which includes the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain – has an average population age of just 27-years-old. Moreover, 20 percent of the total population is under the age of 15-years-old. As a result, Millennials and increasingly Gen Z are the driving force behind food market trends in the region.


In the flour milling industry, this is of particular significance in relation to gluten-free products available in the region. More so than their predecessors, Millennials and Gen Z are significantly more likely to select health foods, including gluten-free products.


According to a study by Mintel Group Ltd, over 50 percent of Millennials have consumed gluten-free food. This represents a significant increase compared to the older Baby Boomer generation, which accounted for just 14 percent of gluten-free consumers, and Generation X which accounted for 25 percent of gluten-free consumers in the study. Meanwhile, a separate study by Mintel showed that 79% of Gen Z shoppers bought speciality Consumer Packaged Goods (CPGs).


The two younger groups are also far more likely to shop online for F&B products, a trend which has only increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Reflecting the speciality foods trend, the 2020 GCC Gluten Free Food Products Market report showed that gluten-free products in the region are set to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CACR) of 9 percent from 2021-2025.


The report said “there is a huge demand for gluten-free food products by the Millennial [generation] due to the rapid shifting preferences towards a healthy lifestyle, which [is expected to] drive GCC gluten-free food products market during the forecast period.”


The report also cited increased awareness of celiac disease, and gluten intolerance as reasons for the growth as well as “growing urbanization, rising disposable income and growing trend towards healthy eating,” as reasons for the trend.


Noting the two younger generations’ preference to shop online, the report also said: “Oman and Kuwait are two key markets in the GCC for gluten-free food products due to the increasing availability of gluten-free food products through the online channels and anticipated growth during the forecast period.”


The report added: “The online segment is expected to continue to emerge as the preferred distribution channel during the forecast period, due to higher convenience, rising internet penetration and lack of time.”


However, the report also noted that in UAE and Oman the products were growing through both online and offline channels.


Major players currently operating in the GCC gluten-free food product market include Dr Schär, Barilla, Bob's Red Mill, Nestle, Nairn's, Glebe Farm, Alara and Kupiec amongst others.