In 2019, the EU wheat gluten market increased by 4.9% to $932M for the first time since 2015, thus ending a three-year declining trend. Over the period under review, consumption saw a relatively flat trend pattern. The level of consumption peaked at $1,000M in 2015; however, from 2016 to 2019, consumption remained at a lower figure.

The countries with the highest volumes of wheat gluten consumption in 2019 were France (128K tonnes), Germany (112K tonnes) and the Netherlands (80K tonnes), together comprising 48% of total consumption. The UK, Spain, Italy, Poland, Romania, Belgium, Denmark, Greece and Sweden lagged somewhat behind, together comprising a further 41%.

From 2014 to 2019, the biggest increases were in Sweden, while wheat gluten consumption for the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

In value terms, France ($191M), the Netherlands ($116M) and Germany ($101M) constituted the countries with the highest levels of market value in 2019, together comprising 44% of the total market. These countries were followed by the UK, Italy, Spain, Poland, Romania, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden and Greece, which together accounted for a further 42%.

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a noticeable transformation of the markets in the EU, in particular, with regard to the wheat gluten market. So far, the uncertainty regarding the depth of both the European and the national economic decline is too great to make long-term forecasts. As wheat gluten constitute a common input in the production of bread and bakery, pasta, and some other food products, which are, in turn, consumer-targeted. Therefore, the pandemic brought changes to key market fundamentals: macroeconomic background, sales channels, supply chains, consumer behavior, and prices.

Against the backdrop of the introduction of quarantine restrictions which lead to the closure of production, a halt in transport activity, and a drop in incomes, over March-April of 2020 many countries experienced a booming consumer demand for long-term storage food products, including pasta. Against this backdrop, a noticeable increase in grain milling output was observed in March-April, also boosted by the disruption of pasta supply chains from Italy. This may affect local demand for wheat gluten, however, since pasta is largely made from durum wheat rich in natural gluten, no dramatic structural changes are expected in the market, although local fluctuations are possible. Further supply chain operations depend on the development of the virus situation, which is still highly uncertain, with the possible threat of the so-called ‘second wave’ of the pandemic.

Given the limitations of the HoReCa sector and the reduced number of visits to traditional malls and shops, the bread output fell dramatically across Europe, which certainly affects the demand for flours. This, however, was partially mitigated by the rising demand for flour for the production of pasta outside Italy, and the rising demand for ingredients for home baking.

As the wheat gluten market is predominantly a b2b-market, no dramatic changes are expected with regard to sales channels. However, online communication becomes increasingly important even in the b2b sales channels, with the use of distant negotiations and electronic document workflow.

The major risk in sales channels comes from the disruption of established international supply chains between wheat growers, importers, wheat processors, distributors, and bakeries/pasta producers due to asynchronous quarantine measures and restricted transport activity.  

In March-April 2020, there was a noticeable increase in consumer prices for bread, flour, and pasta in many large consumer countries. This growth, however, was not accompanied by a corresponding increase in producer prices, which indicates the rush demand as the main reason for the price increase. Thus, producer prices rise slightly in Spain and France, in Italy they grew sharply from April to June, while in Germany, the prices also saw an increase from April to June, but it was less tangible than in Italy. From July to August, the producer prices in almost all of the countries stabilized, except for Italy which saw another hike in terms of grain milling producer prices.  

Consequently, the crisis of the COVID pandemic does not yet lead to a significant increase in prices, and the market is trying to find a new balance. Further price dynamics will depend on the situation with wheat supplies and the degree of threat of a new wave of quarantine restrictions. However, since some transport and cross-border restrictions still remain, local small price fluctuations are possible due to the current supply and demand conditions.

In 2019, the amount of wheat gluten imported in the European Union declined dramatically to 330K tonnes, waning by -16.8% in 2018. Overall, imports recorded a slight decline. In value terms, wheat gluten imports fell rapidly to $504M (IndexBox estimates) in 2019.

The wheat gluten import price in the European Union stood at $1,526 per tonne in 2019, waning by -7% against the previous year. The growth pace was the most rapid in 2018 when the import price increased by 10% year-to-year. As a result, import price attained the peak level of $1,640 per tonne, and then reduced in the following year.

Average prices varied somewhat amongst the major importing countries. In 2019, major importing countries recorded the following prices: in France ($1,692 per tonne) and Denmark ($1,644 per tonne), while Spain ($1,343 per tonne) and Poland ($1,417 per tonne) were amongst the lowest.

The wheat gluten imports in the EU experienced a sharp contraction since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, which went along with a sharp drop in average import prices. This generally corresponds to the growth in domestic production in the same period – due to the undermining of supply chains, more grain mill products began to be produced domestically. In the third quarter of 2020, however, both the prices and the volumes of import prices recovered to their previous level, which was due to the gradual stabilization of the market amid the opening of the economy.

Local fluctuations in supply and prices are possible due to risks in the supply chain and macroeconomic uncertainty. Weather conditions also act as an uncertainty factor for wheat supply in 2020

Given the pandemic-related limitation of the HoReCa and retail sector, the wheat gluten market is not expected to post any tangible gains in 2020. Afterward, the market is forecast to resume gradual growth, driven by gradual population growth and the recovery of the baking industry. Market performance is forecast to retain its current trend pattern, expanding with an anticipated CAGR of +0.7% for the period from 2019 to 2030, which is projected to bring the market volume to 725K tonnes by the end of 2030.

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