There are many reviews popping up over the blogosphere of the recent launch of the first fresh gluten free wrap on the market that actually wraps! It’s something of a revelation* and certainly a major technical achievement for Warburton’s Newburn Bakehouse range – so a big round of applause to them; but as with many new gluten free product launches, the £2.99 price tag (for 3 wraps) has caused lots of disgruntled comments on Twitter and Facebook.
Now I agree that gluten free food is often expensive, and I would definitely welcome a reduction in price. The cost is the reason coeliacs have access to gluten free prescriptions, however I think we need to move on – I don’t think it’s always unjustifiably expensive; and I don’t think it’s fair to compare with gluten-containing foods. Here’s why:
1. It’s expensive for a reason
Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think gluten free manufacturers are trying to exploit people who need to eat gluten free. If we want to have ‘like for like’ on taste without having the same ingredients, we don’t get to have like for like on price because gluten free products…
- …Cost more to develop – Warburtons spent 10 months working on their wrap – that’s a lot of investment in something as simple as a piece of bread.
- …Contain more expensive ingredients from further afield – tapioca and rice flour from certified gluten-free sources for example. See the impact of needing use pure oats on the relative costs of the Nairn’s gluten free oatcakes (£1.25 per 100g) and normal oatcakes (36p per 100g) which otherwise have the same ingredients and are the same product.
- …Need tighter production controls – small producers who go through product testing can testify to the cost of the process. Warburtons invested in an entirely separate production facility to ensure the free from status of the products, and our safety – that doesn’t come cheap either.
- …Don’t benefit from economies of scale – the market is smaller so there isn’t the capacity to get discounts on source ingredients, production and transport.
2. A better comparison is what you would pay for what you would have as an alternative
When I consider how much I am willing to pay for gluten free bread – I consider two things:
- Do I think it’s worth the money? £3 for a loaf of bread that is riddled with holes and falls apart? No chance. £2.99 for yummy wraps that mean I can enjoy a delicious burrito on the streets of Cork with my mates? I’ll happily cut back on another treat for that experience every so often.
- How does the price compare to the gluten free food I would otherwise have? I make a packed lunch most days for work for both cost and health reasons – sometimes it’s a sandwich. If I didn’t, the alternative wouldn’t be a gluten-containing product, it would be a salad from Pret or POD or some sushi from Itsu. I’d easily spend £6-8 on lunch, as opposed to the £2-3 I spend on ingredients including gluten free breads.
3. Don’t make it the mainstay of your diet
I agree that things like gluten free bread can be great because they provide convenience and comfort – they make us feel normal in a gluten-containing world; but the simple answer to the cost of the product, is not to buy so much of it.
It’s been well documented in the mainstream media, and on this great blog that gluten free options are not healthy – they often contain more calories, fat and sugar than the gluten-containing versions, and shouldn’t form the basis of our diet.
I started enjoying my life as a coeliac more when I stopped being obsessed with having cake, or being able to get a sandwich on the move, and started exploring the many less-expensive and naturally gluten free alternatives I could still enjoy. Thus breakfast is often fruit and yogurt (or scrambled eggs at the weekend), lunch is soup or a salad. Rice and potatoes form the basis of most of our evening meals. Of course I still have the occasional sandwich or gluten free pasta, but my diet is delicious and varied without having it every day.
4. Endless harking back to gluten-containing life will only make you depressed
Someone asked me the other day what gluten-containing foods I really missed, and I struggled to answer because I don’t tend to focus on it. When I did answer started feeling sad about Chinese takeaway – no fun! Standing in front of the croissants at Sainsbury’s, meeping quietly to yourself isn’t helpful, might lead to you cheating on the diet and certainly won’t make you any happier. The sad fact is, if you have to eat gluten-free, life has changed and our shopping basked needs to aswell – try to move forwards positively and use it as an opportunity to eat more healthily, learn more about food and get well!
So in conclusion, I think we should hope for improvements in price as market demand and competition grows and there are ingredient and product innovations, but the price of bread isn’t the be-all and end-all of living a happy, healthy (and inexpensive) gluten free life!
What do you think? Is £2.99 a fair price for gluten free wraps?
*I should state that Newburn Bakehouse provided me with the wrap to try ahead of it being released in supermarkets. I generally do not review ‘freebies’ on the blog, but this issue caused such a twitter storm, so please bear in mind my potential lack of impartiality in my enthusiasm for the new product!