Gluten-Free Stays in Food Forecasts


U.S. sales of gluten-free products hit $1.57 billion last year, according to Packaged Facts data, a jump of 11 percent over 2014. That growth rate “runs laps around the grocery sector's overall growth of 3 percent,” reports Bloomberg News.

In areas of otherwise slumping numbers like the cereal aisle, where sales have been declining for a decade, special food labels such as "gluten-free," "GMO-free" and "no high-fructose corn syrup" have made for one of the few bright spots, according to Bloomberg.

Recent Hartman research also shows “the market for gluten-free products and menu options appears to continue to burgeon unabated,” as consumers exert more control over their own health and wellness, and the general trend is toward a higher-quality, more enjoyable life. Hartman researchers hypothesize that “digestive health” or “inherent functionality” might be the real product attributes that are attracting consumers to gluten-free options.

In prepared food settings where cross-contamination is a risk, staying gluten free can be more challenging. Uriah Blum, vice president of operations at health-focused Vitality Bowls in California, relies on staff as enforcers of allergy safety.

“Our founders have a child who is highly allergic to many foods, so we’ve created a safe place,” he says. “At point of sale, our staff asks about allergies and flags meal preparation tickets accordingly. Line workers change gloves and equipment as needed.”

Blum also sees his staff as educators: “We steer clients toward nutritious ingredients and super foods that add nutrition to meals that have been adjusted due to gluten or nut allergies. It’s a great opportunity to build awareness around nutrition.”

Grocerant-Ready Ideas:

  • Staff training to discuss any food allergies when customers order
  • Labeling for possible cross-contaminants such as gluten, nuts and dairy
  • Alternative selections presented to customers with allergies
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