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Why is Gluten Free Food so Expensive?

12 Comments 25 March 2010

“Why is gluten free food so expensive? I feel like I’m being punished for a food allergy.” We’ve all been there and had that feeling. Things were a lot worse ten years ago when we were paying exorbitant prices for food hat tasted like cardboard and was extremely hard to find. All that is small comfort to someone (like the person who wrote this comment) who has just been diagnosed.

One thing we can do is sometimes called an “attitude adjustment”. The cost of gluten free food becomes less alarming when we realize that celiac disease is an incurable disease and our food is also our medication —we spend relatively little money on pills, hospital stays, or visits to our doctor. The cost drops when we focus on naturally gluten free foods like fruits and vegetables and unprocessed meat. Most of us should be doing that anyway. There is still a problem, of course, especially for people who have just been diagnosed and have not yet had time to learn the shortcuts.

Published 3/25/10  Updated 9/14/10

Your Comments

12 Comments so far

  1. A lot comes down to basic principles of economics. There is a lot of demand from our wheat-loving society, so wheat is grown in mass quantities and the economies of scale dictate a lower price. Wheat products are produced in mass quantities and the economies of scale dictate a lower price.

    Also, companies producing non-gluten-free foods do not have to worry about cross contamination as much and therefore can reduce costs by not cleaning lines or having dedicated facilities.

  2. Patty says:

    oh paleeze. rice is abundant and we eat a lot of it–celiac or not. I believe gluten free foods are more expensive because they can get away with charging more because they know they have you by the short hairs. I see no reason to charge way more (especially for shipping).
    I make most of my own “sweets” including candy and try not to buy a lot of processed packaged foods which cost more even if it’s not gluten free.

  3. Kiku says:

    I agree with the author. I was wondering myself why we are being punished for having an allergy to gluten. (By the way, I typed, “why are we punished for being gluten free” in the google search and it brought me here!) I just found out recently that I have a mild case of celiacs. I try to get my ingredients on sale as much as possible. I want to be able to embrace this gluten free lifestyle but it hinders my happiness when I have to pay extra amounts for such a little amount of product. Thank goodness I’m single and have a petit appetite. I was just looking up some restaurants in my area that tend the the GF crowd but one restarant states that they will use GF pasta with a $2 charge. Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza charges $3 for pizza. Makes me disappointed. This is not a luxury so why do we have to pay extra?

  4. deb says:

    I’m disappointed and horrified. I have given up trying to make my own gluten-free baked goods, because they’re just horrible. Therefore, I have pretty much given up on baked goods, except for special occasions. I just bought a $20 cheescake–now, granted, it’s delicious–but if my husband gets wind of this, I’m toast. What makes the punishment all the more unbearable is that people doubt that you really need to avoid wheat. Yeah, I’m making this up, and I just go through extra lengths to avoid food I love so I can make you suffer. I guess I will just focus on the thought that I am getting slimmer as I change my diet, and all those who can still eat the cheap food will be harboring inflammation and extra fat.

  5. stephanie says:

    I found out my daughter has celiac disease when she was 4 years old. It is extremely hard on us, because we can’t afford to buy those foods. Some days she goes three meals a day eating “Chex” cereal!! Since she was so young and has Downs Syndrome as well, it doesn’t bother her to eat this way, but it bothers my husband and I. I wish they would just find a cure.

  6. Bob says:

    While it is true that eating gluten-free is probably less expensive than drugs, drugs normally are covered by insurance, thus greatly reducing the cost. There is no such subsidy for people who need to eat gluten-free as a medical necessity. Too bad! When I lived in the United Kingdom I could get prescriptions for gluten-free products of all types and picked up my bread, rolls, pizza crusts, etc., etc., at the pharmacy at minimal cost compared to the same products on the open shelves.

  7. Jeff says:

    Cost of g/f foods is really a question of what you like to eat and how much time you want to spend on it. Baked goods are outrageous in stores because they take pricey ingredients that aren’t mass produced. If you pay the extra money to stock up on the wide variety of flours and starches- potato, tapioca, millet, sorghum, amaranth, xanthan gum- and force yourself to forget what wheat tastes like,(since you won’t ever be eating it again) there are plenty of good bread and pizza crust and other recipes online. If something flops, don’t toss it! Recycle failed cookies into bars, or pie crumble, dip your bread failures in balsamic and olive oil, and munch away with a glass of wine, or turn it into bread crumbs. There are no kitchen rules for us celiacs, we are beyond the law. Brown rice and quinoa pastas are not expensive, and Whole Foods has brown rice lasagna. Discovering them inspired me to start making my spaghetti sauces from scratch(enter crock pot). I actually landed on this page because I was looking for new gluten free beer, cause I’m tired of Redbridge

  8. marcy zumbrunnen says:

    I think it is unfair to charge so much for gluten free food. As a senior citizen, sure hard on the grocery budget. I think it is so expensive because they know they have you over a barrel.

  9. Liz says:

    Because of the rising number of celiac diagnoses, “Gluten-free” food is now a niche industry. Just like “low-carb” and “fat-free” were many years ago. Food companies love to market to new health trends, and for celiacs who don’t know where to look, this can be extremely frustrating. Rice, sorghum, millet, buckwheat, chickpea and tapioca flours really aren’t any more expensive than wheat flours if you know where to shop. I get all my gluten-free flours from an Indian grocery store down the street. Asian markets also have cheap rice flour, and not to mention rice noodles, rice paper, and tons of other snacks made out of rice. I make my own pan-bread using any of the above mentioned flours. All you do use equal parts flour and water, bring the water to a boil, plop in the flour, reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes, add a pinch of salt, then stir it into dough. Let is cool, heat up a dry skillet, roll the dough into small tortillas (or use a tortilla press), and toast them on the skillet for a minute or two on each side. It comes out a bit like pita bread. I also make my own baked goods using bananas as a binder. I’m a vegan so I don’t use any eggs or butter in my baking, and it turns out fine. I just use bananas and applesauce and a bit of oil.

  10. Spoon says:

    Horse Hockey. It is greed, plain and simple. It costs more because they want to charge more.

    Corn (maze) is subsidized in the U.S. way beyond wheat. Gluten free corn products should cost less to produce, but that doesn’t stop them from gouging the end customers for large profits.

    They charge more for “health food” because they can, because people will pay more for it and some people have no other choice.

  11. Brandon says:

    It isn’t just grocery stores either as evidenced by my ongoing excitement that always ends in disappointment when certain “chains” or even family owned places make the addition of Gluten-Free entrees, at an amazing mark-up.

    For example, Dominoes Pizza recently made the addition of Gluten Free crust advertised as one that finally “taste better than the cardboard box it’s served on”. That’s great, The only problem is a Small(the only size it comes in) is 10″ by diameter and the total of the pizza comes out to over 16 dollars! They sell a large one-topping wheat-based pizza for 6.99 on a regular basis…

    Let’s take a look at the ingredient list of the Gluten-free dough that is supposedly housemade as supplied from their website: Water, Rice Flour, Rice Starch, Potato Starch, Olive Oil, Evaporated Cane Juice, Tapioca Flour, Potato Flour, Fresh Yeast, Avicel, Salt, Calcium Propionate.

    Now I understand Dominos is considered Junk-food and is something you should probably think twice about eating on a regular basis, whether gluten free or not, but I mean, common… You mean to tell me those ingredients are responsible for the outrageous price jump for a SMALL pizza.

    How are we to survive and how much longer will they take advantage of us?

  12. Ken says:

    Maybe someone who loves baking should think about starting a gluton free home baking business and sell their goodies for a fair price and see the world beat a path to their door.


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