Retailers have helped to fuel the “gluten-free food” explosion for bakery products and other foods by moving the category from a specialty niche into the mainstream health and wellness food empire, claimsEuromonitor International

Euromonitor International analyst Ewa Hudson says that the gluten-free food category achieved double-digit, global value sales growth of 11%, even in recession-hit 2009. By comparison, overall health and wellness products achieved a “much more sedate” 3% growth rate within the 2004-09 review period.

In 2009, gluten-free food registered global value sales of $2.3 billion, or 27% of food intolerance sales. Hudson says half of these sales were generated by bakery products, which is traditionally the most relevant category.

Increases in the diagnosis of celiac disease, a genetic disorder requiring sufferers to follow a life-long gluten-free diet, also has played a significant role in the growth of gluten-free foods’ popularity, according to the analyst.

Hudson says that today, a significant proportion of gluten-free shoppers are not diagnosed with celiac disease, but individuals who have diagnosed themselves as being sensitive to gluten are cutting gluten out of their diets in hopes of improving their wellbeing.