What happened to Lance gluten free?

Lance gluten free products were once a popular brand of gluten-free snacks and baked goods. However, in recent years the brand has disappeared from store shelves, leaving gluten-free consumers wondering what happened. There are a few key factors that led to the downfall of Lance gluten free.

Competition in the gluten-free market

When Lance first launched their gluten-free product line in the early 2010s, there were far fewer options for gluten-free packaged foods and snacks. At the time, Lance gluten free filled an important niche in the market. However, as gluten-free diets grew in popularity and demand rose, many other companies began offering gluten-free versions of their products. Major brands like Udi’s, Canyon Bakehouse, and Glutino were able to leverage their existing brand recognition and distribution channels to quickly gain shelf space. This left smaller brands like Lance struggling to compete.

Questionable gluten-free certification

One of the main selling points for Lance gluten free products was the certification from Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), a third-party organization that tests products to verify they contain less than 10 parts per million of gluten. However, in 2015 GIG discovered issues with Lance’s testing and certification process. It was revealed that Lance was not consistently testing all batches of their gluten-free products. This called into question whether Lance products labeled “gluten-free” actually met the strict standards. For consumers who rely on gluten-free certification to avoid health reactions, this breakdown in trust was a deal-breaker.

Lack of innovation

In addition to increased competition and certification issues, Lance failed to innovate and grow their gluten-free product line. The offerings remained fairly similar over the years, focused mostly on snacks like pretzels, sandwich crackers, and cookies. As more specialty gluten-free baked goods and prepared foods entered the market, Lance’s offerings began to feel stale and outdated by comparison. They did not successfully adapt to changing consumer preferences.

Downfall Timeline

Here is a timeline of the key events that led to the downfall and disappearance of Lance gluten free products:

Early 2010s

– Lance launches gluten-free product line including snacks and sandwich crackers. Products are certified gluten-free by GIG.

– Line fills need in market with limited gluten-free packaged food options. Products gain shelf space in mass market and grocery.


– Many other brands begin launching gluten-free versions and expanding into category. Competition heats up.

– Lance struggles to differentiate products as alternatives grow. Relies heavily on being “early” gluten-free brand.


– Issues arise around Lance’s gluten-free certification and testing protocols.

– GIG finds problems; Lance fails their third-party audits.

– Consumers lose trust in Lance’s gluten-free claims. Sales impacted.


– After certification issues, Lance gluten-free products begin disappearing from store shelves.

– Company shifts focus away from gluten-free market with no new product launches.

– No formal announcement, but Lance gluten free fades away.

Why Lance Gluten Free Failed

It’s clear in hindsight that Lance did not have a sustainable market strategy in the gluten-free space. Here are some of the reasons Lance gluten free ultimately failed:

Lacked clear positioning

Lance’s core business was mainstream packaged snacks, not specialty diet offerings. They failed to establish their gluten-free sub-brand as meaningfully different than incumbents in the space. Relying on being “early” to market was not enough.

Reactive, not innovative

After the initial gluten-free product launch, Lance did not innovate or add any compelling new options to their lineup over time. They banked too hard on the early success instead of continuing to build the brand.

Distribution disadvantages

As a smaller company, Lance lacked the distribution power of large CPG brands. This made it hard to get shelf space as competition grew. Their products ultimately got crowded out.

Damaged consumer trust

The breakdown in third-party gluten-free certification shattered confidence in the brand. It highlighted vulnerabilities vs. established gluten-free brands.

Neglected investment

Lance failed to make needed investments in their gluten-free business as challenges mounted. This signaled a lack of commitment to grow and evolve the sub-brand.

What Happened to Remaining Inventory?

Once Lance halted production and pulled distribution of their gluten-free products, some remaining inventory was still left stranded in warehouses and on store shelves. So what ultimately happened to those leftover products?

A few things likely occurred:

– Remnant inventory was sold to dollar stores and discount retailers. Some outdated Lance products may have appeared at deep discounts.

– Retailers held “closeout” sales to eliminate remaining stock from warehouses and shelves.

– Distributors worked with retailers to accept returns and provide credit for unsold inventory. Products were then likely destroyed.

– Lance may have bought back some inventory from retailers as part of winding down the brand.

– In some cases, expired product was disposed of or destroyed by retailers holding old stock.

So in most cases, the remaining inventory was either sold off at low margins, returned to Lance for a refund, or ultimately disposed of at a loss. It represented the last remnants of a product line that once had high consumer demand.

Could Lance Gluten-Free Make a Comeback?

Is there any chance Lance could revive their gluten-free products and make a comeback in the category? Unfortunately, it looks highly unlikely at this point for a few reasons:

– The Lance brand name has been too damaged among gluten-free consumers due to the loss of trust.

– They failed to establish a loyal following or distinctive image around their gluten-free sub-brand.

– The resources and focus required seem to be beyond what Lance is willing to invest.

– The competitive landscape has only gotten more challenging since they exited the space.

– Lance’s core snack business is thriving, reducing motivation for a risky revival.

While you can never say never, Lance returning to the gluten-free market seems very improbable. The brand has given no indications that they are reconsidering this product line or looking to reestablish their presence.

For the many consumers who once relied on Lance for gluten-free snacks and baked goods, they will likely need to continue looking to other brands to meet their dietary needs. Lance has moved on, and a comeback does not appear in the cards based on all available evidence.

Lessons Learned

While the story of Lance gluten free products is one of failure, important business lessons can be gleaned from understanding what went wrong:

– Relying solely on early market entry is a risky strategy – continued innovation is crucial.

– Building meaningful brand differentiation beyond being first-to-market is critical.

– Earning and maintaining consumer trust should be top priority.

– When expanding into specialty niches, securing expertise and infrastructure in that space is key.

– Large CPG companies have inherent advantages in shelf space and distribution power.

– Constant vigilance is required to monitor and adapt to competitive forces.

– Walking away is sometimes the right business move when investment required exceeds projected upside.

The Future of Gluten-Free

While Lance has exited the scene, the overall gluten-free food category continues to grow. Projections call for the global gluten-free food market to surpass $8.3 billion by 2027, expanding at a CAGR of 9.1%. Key trends shaping the future of gluten-free foods include:

– Mainstream adoption beyond those with celiac disease, as consumers perceive health benefits.

– More gluten-free options at restaurants and fast food chains catering to consumer demand.

– Advances in gluten-free breads and baked goods improving taste and texture.

– Product innovation focused on improving nutrition, not just removing gluten.

– Growth of gluten-free private label offerings as stores expand assortment.

– Accelerating demand with rising diagnosis of celiac disease and NCGS (non-celiac gluten sensitivity).

While the Lance story underscores the risks of competing in this space, the outlook for gluten-free food overall remains strong. Legacy brands, disruptive startups, and everyone in between will continue leveraging this high-growth category. Those who can establish credibility, earn consumer loyalty, and maintain quality standards will be best positioned to thrive in the gluten-free 2.0 revolution ahead.

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