Coeliac disease is caused by an intolerance to gluten - the protein found in wheat, rye and barley - and currently affects an average of one in 300 people in Europe and the US. In Germany the figure is higher at one in 200, while the UK reports a figure of one in 100.
Estimates by market researcher Mintel reveal the overall free-from food market in the UK was worth around £90m (€131m) last year, with gluten-/wheat-free products forming the largest sector, accounting for 54 per cent of value sales. It has proved difficult however for manufacturers to remove gluten while still providing a pleasant taste and structure to products.
Now researchers at the Food Technology Plant Special Research Centre (CeRPTA), attached to the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, claim to have created a type of bread with a similar taste and consistency to that derived from wheat flour - with a spongy texture and normal volume.
The CeRPTA said in a statement: "The bread has a pleasant taste and texture and is of a high-quality. It was produced with primary materials that are 100 per cent gluten-free, is highly nutritional and can be enjoyed both by coeliacs and by the general population."
In addition, the product is made from plant-based ingredients and suitable for those with an intolerance to lactose and eggs - opening up the possibility for further application in the free-from market.