Growing global demand for gluten-free beer means more opportunities for Scottish breweries

The world's gluten-free industry is set to reach the 4.7 billion USD mark by 2020. Gluten-free beer is taking a sizeable swig out of this market. If Scottish brewers turn the tap full on, they could take a healthy chunk of this expanding economy.

More people are tuning into the benefits of following a gluten-free diet. Manufacturers in all food and drink sectors are listening, and this includes those brewing the amber nectar. Gluten-free beer is no longer riding on the coattails of the gluten-free movement, and has shown sturdy growth over the last few years.

Kantar Worldpanel's market research shows UK beer drinkers spent an extra £5.9 million on gluten-free beer in the past 12 months, an increase of 122.4%. This year, sales topped £10 million. In terms of volume, we've consumed an extra 1.5 million litres of gluten-free beer - an increase of 134.6%. And according to the Global Gluten-Free Beer Market report, sales of gluten-free beer will grow at a company annual growth rate of more than 13.5% between 2017 and 2022.

So, with gluten-free beer proving to be more than a passing fad, Scottish breweries will need to innovate to compete with global rivals, both big and small. But if Scotland knows something about anything - it knows how to brew beer.

The gluten-free boom

For those living with coeliac disease in the UK (an estimated 1 in 100 people), and those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (around 15% of the UK population) the benefits of following a gluten-free diet are well known.

Avoiding gluten has also become a lifestyle choice for an estimated, additional 9% of the population. Gluten-free foods claim to aid digestion – which many see as central to personal health and wellbeing. Because of this, gluten-free products are dominating the free-from food category.

Retail sales of free-from foods show a robust growth of 126% since 2011, reaching sales of £627 million in 2016. Gluten-free products showed sales of up to £362.7 million in 2016, and this is estimated to steadily grow up to £578.9 million by 2021.

Where gluten-free beer fits in

So, with the gluten-free market vigorous, what do Scottish brewers need to do to raise Scotland’s output in this sector?

Brewing gluten-free beer can be tricky. And it must be verified and certified by Coeliac UK.

With the exception of Scotland’s Bellfield Brewery, it’s rare for brewers to build an entire gluten-free microbrewery. But when brewed alongside non-gluten free beer the potential for cross-contamination is high.

However, there are two ways to brew gluten-free beer.

Reduced gluten beer

100% gluten-free beer is brewed with gluten-free ingredients, such as buckwheat, rice, sorghum and millet. This beer is the safest choice for high-sensitive celiacs, but differs in flavour and texture to traditional barley or wheat-based beer.

According to America's Food and Drug Administration, food and drink can also be considered to be gluten free if the gluten content has been removed to below 20 parts per million. Products that are more gluten reduced than gluten free are considered by many to be safe for the majority of gluten sensitive consumers. 

Enter Brewers Clarex™

Gluten-reduced beer is brewed with barley, but the gluten content is reduced by using the enzyme Clarex. Brewers Clarex™ is an enzyme that was originally developed to prevent haze in beer, but researchers found that it had another benefit. It can break down gluten proteins into smaller pieces, that are too small for the body to detect as gluten.

The advantages of gluten-reduced beer is that it’s more similar in taste to traditional beer, making it a popular choice for gluten-sensitive beer drinkers. However, for those who suffer severely from coeliac disease, the safest beer to drink is still the gluten-free beer brewed from gluten alternatives.

Innovation at Scotland’s Bellfield Brewery

San Miguel, Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Estrella Damm, Greene King, Tennent’s, Brewdog and Stella Artois, have all launched gluten-free or gluten-reduced beer using the Clarex enzyme.

Edinburgh’s Bellfield Brewery, is the UK’s first dedicated gluten-free micro-brewery. Unlike most other gluten-free brews produced, Bellfield does not ‘de-glutenise’ its beers with enzymes, but has instead adapted its brewing process and recipes.

This sets it apart from its competitors. Bellfield claims it can brew gluten-free beer naturally by using non-gluten ingredients like maize, as well as a low gluten protein like barley – using brewing conditions that break down the gluten completely, without the help of an enzyme.

Great opportunities for Scottish beer makers

The key to continued growth in the sector, is to produce high-quality, great-tasting gluten-free beer, and taking Bellfield Brewery's lead, there's plenty of potential for Scottish brewers to invest in building up their gluten-free beer capabilities.

We’re here to help all food and drink businesses grow. If you want to understand more about gluten-free beer in Scotland, get in contact with our innovation connectors who are plugged into a wide network of support and expertise.

Working out of our, Make Innovation Happen support hub, Rachel, Caroline and Paul are innovation specialists dedicated to making Scotland a food and drink centre of excellence. They support ideas and help them get to market by helping companies introduce effective changes to how processes and workforces work. Their prime goal is to help businesses grow in Scotland and overseas.

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