The market for gluten-free foods and beverages has continued to grow even faster than anticipated, according to "Gluten-Free Foods and Beverages in the U.S.," a new report by Packaged Facts.

The market will reach $4.2 billion in 2012, for a compound annual growth rate of 28 percent throughout the 2008-2012 period.

An August 2012 consumer survey by Packaged Facts shows that 18 percent of adults are buying or consuming food products tagged as gluten-free, up from 15 percent in October 2010. Additionally, the share of gluten-free consumers who are buying more of these foods has skyrocketed, and the share of total shoppers who are buying more gluten-free foods has doubled.

According to David Sprinkle, research director at Packaged Facts, "the conviction that gluten-free products are generally healthier is the top motivation for purchase of these products."

Drivers of the growth include growing awareness, as well as acknowledgment and prevalence of celiac disease and food allergies. There is also a growing trend of friends/family eating gluten-free diets to support those who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

While growth rates are expected to moderate within the next five years, Packaged Facts projects that U.S. sales of gluten-free foods and beverages will exceed $6.6 billion by 2017.

Read more about food safety.

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