I wish that gluten-free bread slices weren’t so small. There is a good reason that gluten-free bread is so small though, so I don’t think we’ll see a dramatic change anytime soon.
Gluten-Free bread is so small because gluten-free bread is dense, and increasing the bread’s size would increase the already high cost of gluten-free bread beyond what consumers would be willing to pay for the bread.
So store bought gluten-free bread is small, but it doesn’t have to be. On the other hand, store-bought gluten-free bread is dense, and there’s isn’t a lot that can be done about that.
Why Gluten-Free Bread is so Small
Store-bought gluten-free bread somehow manages to be small in every way possible. Compared to wheat bread, gluten-free bread generally has smaller slices, less slices per loaf, and in most cases the gluten-free loaves even weigh less. (You get less and pay more! What a great deal!)
To help you visualize the differences, here’s a table that compares the cost, weight, and slices per loaf of various wheat and gluten-free breads. The first 5 rows are wheat bread and the last 7 rows are gluten-free breads.
|Bread Type||Loaf Weight||Loaf Price||Price Per oz||Slices Per Loaf||Slice Weight|
|Great Value White or Wheat||20oz – 567g||$0.84||4.2 Cents||22||26g|
|Wonder Bread White||20oz – 567g||$1.83||9.2 Cents||20||28.5g|
|Market Pantry Whole Wheat||20oz – 567g||$1.59||8 Cents||22||25.8g|
|Sara Lee White||20oz – 567g||$1.98||9.9 Cents||20||28.5g|
|Nature’s Own Butterbread||20oz – 567g||$2.99||15 Cents||22||29g|
|Franz Gluten-Free White||17oz – 482g||$7.09||41.7 Cents||14||36g|
|Franz Gluten-Free 7-Grain||18oz – 510g||$6.79||37.7 Cents||14||36g|
|Schar Gluten-Free Artisan White||14.1oz – 400g||$8.32||59 Cents||12||31g|
|Udi’s Gluten-Free White or Whole Grain||12oz – 340g||$4.59||38.3 Cents||14||24.5g|
|Katz Gluten-Free White or Whole Grain||21oz – 595g||$6.19||29.5 Cents||17||35g|
|Rudi’s Gluten-Free Multigrain||18oz – 510g||$6.99||38.8 Cents||14||37g|
|Canyon Bakehouse Gluten-Free White||18oz – 510g||$5.46||30.3 Cents||15||34g|
Of the loaves compared in the table, all wheat breads weighed 20 oz and had 20 or 22 slices. Most gluten-free loaves weighed 18 oz or less and had 15 slices or less. The crazy thing is that each slice of gluten-free bread weighs more even though each slice is smaller than standard slices of wheat bread.
I measured slices of Franz Gluten-Free 7-Grain bread and found that the average size was about 3 inches by 3.5 inches. Compare this to wheat bread slices, which are somewhere between 4 by 4 inches or 4.5 by 4.5 inches, and we see that gluten-free bread slices are about 35 to 45% smaller than wheat bread slices.
Continuing with Franz gluten-free bread as an example, if gluten-free slices were the same size as wheat bread slices, and the cost per ounce stayed the same, the price of the loaf would increase from $6.79 for 18 slices to about $9.40 for 18 slices, or $13.40 for 20 slices. This larger $13.40 loaf that has the same number of slices as wheat bread loafs, and has slices that are the same length and height as wheat bread slices, would weigh about 36 oz or 2.2 pounds.
Think about it; would you as a consumer be willing to pay $13.40 for 1 loaf of gluten-free bread? Some of you may be willing to pay that much, but there will be many less consumers willing to pay $13.40 for a larger loaf of bread than consumers would be willing to pay $6.79 for a smaller loaf.
Consumer behavior toward prices is shaped by a lot of things. When looking at a loaf of gluten-free bread or any purchasable good, consumers will consider their purchasing power, meaning they’ll consider how much money they have to spend, and if a product is to expensive (it’s exceeds their budget) they won’t buy it.
For me as a consumer, I know that if I want to go out and buy new clothes and I only have a certain amount of money to spend, I’ll probably end up buying more shirts than pants because shirts are usually cheaper and I can get more shirts within my purchasing power than I can get pants.
Consumers also don’t like price changes. If companies were to start selling larger $13.40 loaves, consumers would have a hard time paying $6.61 more per loaf, even though they’re paying the same price per ounce and are getting more bread.
Even though a lot of commercially available gluten-free bread loaves weigh less and usually have smaller slices than their gluten-containing counterparts, not all gluten-free bread is this way. The Katz gluten-free bread compared in the table above weighed 1 oz more per loaf than the compared wheat breads.
Of course Costco can sell you gluten-free bread in bulk, and their business delivery service can provide you a 2 pack of Franz gluten-free bread 20 oz loaves.
One last point to consider is that gluten-free bread has a short shelf life, so if so consumers were to buy larger loaves of gluten-free bread they would have to eat it more quickly or take up more room in their freezer storing it. This could be an additional deterrent to buy larger loaves for some consumers.
In addition to comparing slices of bread, I’ve also compared the nutritional facts of over 80 different gluten free and wheat breads in this article.
Why is Gluten-Free Bread so Dense?
Gluten-free bread is so dense because the lack of gluten causes the bread to rise less than bread with gluten would rise. Gluten is key to trapping gas bubbles from the yeast in the bread, which makes the bread rise, but gluten-free bread has to rely on other ingredients to trap the gas so that it can rise.
Store-bought gluten-free bread is about 70% to 90% more dense than store bought wheat bread when comparing weight per slice and slice length and height, assuming the slices are the same thicknesses.
When you look at a slice of bread made with gluten, you can see the sponge-like structure of the bread is made up of air pockets. When the dough is set out to rise before baking, the yeast ferments and emits gas. The gluten in the dough traps the gas, forming those air pockets and allowing the bread to rise.
When the bread is put in the oven, the heat of the oven will increase the rate of yeast fermentation, causing the bread to rise rapidly for the first few minutes until the yeast is killed or the bread crust hardens. This is called oven spring.
Gluten-free bread has a much more dense sponge-like structure because it has to rely on other ingredients in place of gluten, like xantham gum and eggs to trap the gas and air in the bread and allow it to rise and have structure.
Xantham gum is used in gluten-free foods and bread as a gluten substitute to add structure and elasticity, and to trap gas so the bread can rise. Guar gum is sometimes used like xantham gum as a gluten substitute.
Eggs are commonly used for trapping air in foods and adding volume. When eggs are whipped, they are able to trap the air that is whipped into them. This can provide some structure to gluten-free breads.
Some gluten-free flours are heavier than wheat flour, like store bought all-purpose gluten-free flour blends and rice flours, while a few gluten-free flours like almond flour, corn flour, and coconut flours, are lighter than wheat flour.
The flour blends that food manufactures use in gluten-free breads are also probably heavier than wheat flour, and these heavier flours may play a small role in making gluten-free bread more dense. However, as their weight doesn’t differ too much from wheat flour, it seems likely that the lack of gluten is the main reason gluten-free bread is dense.
Here’s a table comparing the weight per cup of wheat flour to gluten-free flour blends and other gluten-free flours and ingredients used in gluten-free breads.
|Flour Type||Weight Per 1 Cup|
|Wheat Flour – Unbleached||120g|
|King Arthur Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour||120g|
|Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour||136g|
|Namaste Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour||138g|
|Cup 4 Cup Gluten-Free Multi-Use Flour||139g|
|Brown Rice Flour||160g|
|White Rice Flour||160g|