“There are several products made in Morocco that claim to be gluten-free. However, my parents have always been suspicious and preferred to buy imported products from me”, tells us Nada, a young celiac patient from Casablanca. A reality often shared by the thousands of families of celiac people who are currently delighted with the creation of the first “Gluten-free” label set up thanks to a collaboration between the Moroccan Institute for Standardization (IMANOR) and the Moroccan Association of Intolerants and Allergic to Gluten (AMIAG).
A niche market
If the market for gluten-free products has continuously grown in recent years at the global level and should reach nearly 6.47 billion dollars in 2023, the lack of certification of Moroccan products has obviously slowed down its growth to date. the national agri-food industry which has tried to position itself in this field.
“The market for Moroccan gluten-free products is mainly made up of small industrialists and SMEs partly founded by celiacs or parents of celiacs. They most often offer products based on gluten-free seed flour blends that they import or sometimes produce locally. Unlike wheat, these seeds are expensive, which substantially increases the prices of the products”, explains Jamila Cherif, president of AMIAG, adding that this local market is also characterized by the weak distribution at the national level, because the specialized stores do not are accessible only in a few large cities.
A large consumer base
“We are unfortunately the world champions of celiac disease, especially in southern Morocco where there is a prevalence rate of 5%. This is quite simply the highest rate ever achieved. Globally, the average prevalence rate is around 1% of the population,” says Dr. Khadija Moussayer, vice-president of AMIAG. The estimated number of people intolerant to gluten in the whole of the national territory is estimated at nearly 380,000.
“Unfortunately, not all of them are screened, which is very negative given the sometimes fatal risks for a celiac to consume gluten,” laments Jamila Cherif. The number of Moroccan consumers likely to look for products labeled “gluten-free” is not, however, limited to people with gluten intolerance. “There are also healthy people who make this consumption choice as well as all those whose life is improved thanks to a gluten-free diet, namely: people who suffer from various other autoimmune diseases, people with autism or also have Down’s syndrome”, specifies the president of the AMIAG.
With the implementation of the national “Gluten-free” label, the local industry specializing in gluten-free products can finally prove the conformity of its products and thus trim the market share usually occupied by products imported from abroad. It is also a new open door for the rest of the Moroccan food industry.
“We have been contacted by major manufacturers who want to get into the niche of gluten-free products. Our mission was therefore to make them aware of the separation of production lines and thus ensure that there is no contamination by gluten. We hope that the new label will allow them to succeed in their investment in this market by setting up an appropriate value chain and products at reasonable prices,” explains the president of AMIAG. It should be noted that the labeling also targets products that do not use cereals in their composition and which celiacs are more often forced to deprive themselves of as a precautionary measure.