Gluten-Free in the Marketplace: Consumer Trends

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With the number of American consumers on therapeutic diets on the rise, foodservice operators are now altering their preparation methods and menu offerings to serve this dining niche. While reduced calorie and lower fat options have become menu mainstays, the gluten-free diet has come to the forefront in recent years. An estimated 18 million Americans have been diagnosed with gluten-related disorders such as celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, along with a growing number of health-conscious consumers who avoid gluten for various dietary reasons or as a personal preference.

Foodservice operations are addressing this growing dietary concern. Gluten-free cuisine recently moved from 9th place to 5th place on the NRA’s “What’s Hot Culinary Forecast” for 2014. Non-wheat noodles/pastas also joined gluten-free food on the list, further proving the high demand for wheat-free meals while dining out. Chefs are responding to the pressure to add gluten-free options to their menus by finding creative ways to please these customers.

So what does gluten-free entail, and what do operators need to know to stay in front of this growing percentage of the market? There are varying degrees of gluten intolerance, the most severe being celiac disease, where the body reacts adversely to gluten found in wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats. But, even though there is a range of severity, you should stick to adding options that are entirely gluten-free and always identify risks of cross-contact during preparation.

> Sysco variety:
Many healthy and delicious foods are naturally gluten-free, and available from Sysco!
> Beans, seeds and nuts in their natural, unprocessed form
> Fresh eggs
> Fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded, batter-coated or marinated)
> Fruits and vegetables
> Most dairy products

> always avoid:
All food and drinks containing…
> Wheat
> Barley (malt, malt flavoring and malt vinegar are usually made from barley)
> Rye
> Triticale (a cross between wheat and rye)

what you need to know!
While tailoring food service menus and processes to meet gluten-free preferences, operators should know that there are already items that may be gluten-free, including grilled meats and seafood, and rice-based foods. Other operations are offering the option to prepare certain menu items as gluten-free upon request. There are a variety of ways to accommodate gluten-sensitive dietary needs, and staying ahead of the trend will help increase customer satisfaction. Please see your Sysco Representative for more information.

Learn more about Gluten-Free trends here