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Updated May 29, 2012 - 7:07 am

More food companies moving to gluten-free products

PHOENIX -- Frito-Lay is poised to launch a new set of gluten-free labels and snacks.

While the move is a big one for the company, it's not the first of its kind. Both Kraft Foods and General Mills have made similar moves. It's all part of a decade-long trend of consumers eating gluten-free.

Americans spent $2.64 billion on food products without gluten last year. That's up from $210 million in 2001.

"Large companies are starting to realize there is a large segment of the population that has to eat a gluten-free diet, or chooses to eat gluten-free," said Diana Lake, a member of the Celiac Disease Foundation's Greater Phoenix chapter.

People who have Celiac can't digest gluten properly, making gluten-free food a necessity. According to Lake, it is those people who have helped drive this recent gluten-free push.

"Often times, there is a family member that has to have a gluten-free diet. Sometimes people in that family say 'wow, we aren't really finding as many tasty products we'd like to find. Maybe we can make a better cookie, or cake mix, or pretzel, or whatever,' " said Lake.

According to Lake, a recent gluten-free expo saw 2,000 people attend with 50-55 vendors, most of them independent businesses. Four years ago, 350 people attended and there were only 25 vendors.

A big reason for that increase could also be attributed to the number of people going gluten-free by choice.

"It's a huge commitment to be gluten-free for the rest of your life, but those people [who go gluten-free by choice] are likely to stay on it," said Lake.

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