There are more gluten-free foods on today’s supermarket shelves, and no doubt more in the pipeline. Looking specifically at gluten-free foods, a 2018 U.K. study showed that some items cost on average 159% more than their conventional counterparts, according to a report on the BBC.
For example, a bag of pretzel sticks are $3 but gluten-free ones are $4.50. It's $2.50 for fresh sandwich bread, but $4.50 for a frozen gluten-free loaf. And the 99-cent pasta as a gluten-free alternative is $4.50.
In 2012, researchers with the American Medical Association surveyed 1,643 caregivers of U.S. children with food allergies—more than a quarter allergic to peanuts—and found that those parents spend an additional $4,184 per child annually.
Researchers concluded that treatment for the estimated 8% of U.S. children with food allergies totaled nearly $25 billion per year. Of that number, out-of-pocket medical costs (including co-payments to doctors, hospitals and medicines such as epinephrine injections), as well as child care and special diets, totaled $5.5 billion.
Finnish researchers similarly estimated that the median annual cost incurred from food-allergy-specific spending on children was $3,600.
Dedicated facilities for free-from foods are often expensive to develop and maintain, which is why prices on store shelves are so high. Another issue: not having the scale of manufacture to bring costs down.
And here’s one point of information that you probably never thought about: The National Association of British and Irish Flour Millers notes that a gluten-free loaf of bread may have more than 20 ingredients in its recipe, mostly to compensate for the lack of wheat. These ingredients cost two to three times that of an equivalent conventional loaf.