The general answer is yes. Some reasons for higher prices include
• The gluten-free food industry is growing fast to serve the increasing demand for gluten-free products, but the consumer market for these foods and ingredients continues to be a smaller segment of the population, the volume sales are far below that of major supermarket brands. Stores have to charge more for these products to make them worth the shelf space.
• Gluten-free packaged, ready-to-eat foods are typically more expensive than their wheat-based counterparts because the individual ingredients used to make the product are more expensive for the manufacturer to purchase.
• Many gluten-free products are found in the health food category instead of their specific food category (like the soups or pastas). They are often made with all natural, preservative free, nonhydrogenated, even organic ingredients, which are higher priced products. These higher production costs are reflected in higher prices for the consumer. Xanthan gum, an ingredient that replaces the gluten in wheat, is widely used and is also expensive, adding to the higher costs for both consumer and manufacturer.
• Many gluten-free products are made by smaller companies that use artisan methods and top quality ingredients to produce their products in relatively small batches. Companies making all natural gluten-free cookies in small batches can’t offer the per cookie price that Nabisco does with its Chips Ahoy, for instance, packing dozens of cookies into each package.
• Artisan flours, starches, grains, and baking aids are produced in smaller quantities than wheat flour, and are subsequently more expensive.
• The economics of supply and demand is not bringing prices of gluten-free products down significantly, not yet. But in the meantime, celiacs with the proper paperwork from their doctor can write gluten-free foods off their taxes. It may not account for much, but you may be able to claim the differential of what normal foods on your shopping list costs versus the gluten-free versions. Consult with your tax advisor to learn more about how the IRS will allow an annual deduction. If this is for you, save those receipts!