At General Mills, a new sales experiment is made possible with new technologies.
In 2008, executives of the food giant began to notice that people with sensitivity to gluten were finding it difficult to locate foods that lack this protein, found naturally in some grains. A year later, the company launched a website called LiveGlutenFreely.com that provided product information and other resources to people seeking a gluten-free lifestyle.
For an international food company that normally markets its iconic brands—including Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Wheaties and Yoplait—on supermarket shelves, the concept was an ambitious experiment. To reach the growing demographic of consumers demanding gluten-free ingredients due to Celiac disease, allergies, or other health or dietary concerns, General Mills would relaunch its site as a new online distribution channel called “Gluten Freely.”
With Gluten Freely, General Mills aims to tap a rapidly growing market. According to the research firm Euromonitor International, the gluten-free market reached nearly $1.3 billion in U.S. sales, and $2.6 billion worldwide, in 2011—more than double the 2005 levels. Those figures are projected to rise by at least five percent this year, and to more than $1.5 billion for the United States and $3.1 billion worldwide in 2015.