Industry Trends
Article

Go Gluten Free for Extra Profits

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Gluten free menu items have rocketed by 200% since 2010. Get aboard fast to profit from the health-conscious trend. We have info and recipes to get you started.
Assortment of gluten free ingredients
©iStockphoto.com/Janine Lamontagne + aydinynr

Are you answering the demand for gluten free alternatives in your operation? If not, you should be.

Before you dismiss the trend as a mere passing bandwagon, it helps to have a little context. According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, 1 in 133 Americans—about 1% of the population—has celiac disease, a genetic autoimmune disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food.

Demand, however, is much higher. A recent study from The NPD Group reveals that 11% of U.S. households follow a gluten free diet, but only one-quarter of those living in a gluten free home say celiac disease or gluten sensitivity is the main reason. The overwhelming majority of consumers who are looking for gluten free, according to the report, are doing so because they perceive it to be more healthy—including for weight maintenance reasons.

Did You Know? Minor’s® offers a number of gluten free products to help you satisfy customer demand not only for GF alternatives, but also for flavor and variety, from bases to sauces and flavor concentrates.

Obviously, this is not a segment you want to turn your back on. And, in fact, according to Mintel, gluten free menu mentions are up 200% since 2010. Moreover, data from restaurant supply-chain co-op SpenDifference indicates that more than half of all restaurant chains were planning on adding GF choices, more than locally sourced and organic items combined.

Here’s how some forward-thinking operators are handling it:

GRILLiT, a fast-casual chain based in Miami, has committed to a menu that is 90% gluten free, by emphasizing Latin/Caribbean-inspired “fresh authentic grill” items in a mix-and-match format. Customers choose a foundation (rice, quinoa, wrap, or salad), protein and toppings (such as Honey Garlic Chicken, dried cranberries, mushrooms, and plantains), and sauce (Garlic-Cilantro, anyone?) for a totally custom dining experience.

Feeling Inspired? Minor’s Latin Flavor Concentrates deliver bold, on-trend flavors for your menu specialties—without gluten.

Among the many gluten free options offered through the various food service outlets at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa, in Lost Pines, TX, the Meetings and Events division offers GF alternatives for lunch and dinner menus, and has tested a Breaks Menu that includes seasonally inspired local fruits, tomato mozzarella skewers with housemade pesto, garlic crostini with olive tapenade, sweet pea and morel mushroom risotto fritters with truffle bits and parmesan, freshly baked (rice flour) chocolate chip cookies, and flourless rockslide brownies.

BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse has an ample gluten free menu that features not only Enlightened Entrees like Lemon Thyme Chicken, but also adaptations such as the Southern-style Santa Fe Salad served without the tortilla chips. There is even a gluten free beer and two GF “hard” ciders.

Not surprisingly, colleges and universities have been particularly responsive to food sensitivities in general and gluten in particular; for instance:

  • Many of the retail food service facilities at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles offer GF as well as vegan and vegetarian selections, and there is also a dedicated gluten free platform, called Be Well, in the Sodexo-operated Lair Marketplace
  • Tufts University, in Medford, MA, makes available an online guide (PDF) to GF dining that includes information about gluten and instructions for searching the campus database for GF items
  • UCLA offers a special key-access Gluten Free Pantry where students can make their own GF snacks and meals

Other food service operations are offering gluten free versions of popular menu items. Domino’s has a gluten free pizza crust. Essentials, a public cafeteria within the University of Missouri health system, offers a gluten free option (PDF) on its flatbread pizzas and most sandwiches for $1 extra. And the Fuddruckers hamburger chain recently rolled out a gluten free bun.

Tip: For more information and guidance on how to handle gluten in your operation, click on the link to access this guide