The benefits of a healthy diet are a no brainer for most, but a gluten-free diet –what’s the appeal? Why has gluten-free suddenly become so popular to consumers, health care providers, and product marketers? Is it a fad or is it here to stay?
As consumer interest in overall health and wellness has increased, the health benefits of a gluten-free diet have broadened in appeal. A gluten-free diet can have a variety of health benefits, such as improving cholesterol levels, promoting digestive health, and increasing energy levels – if you have gluten intolerance.
Research shows that 6-7% of the population has a wheat or gluten intolerance and about 1% of the US population have celiac disease. In fact, the number of cases of celiac disease has doubled every 15 years since 1974. This, coupled with the growing trend of eating gluten-free, have driven up sales of gluten-free products 19% in the year to September 2012 in natural and conventional channels, combined. In other terms, the projected sales of gluten-free foods and beverages are expected to exceed $6.6 billion by 2017!
With the demand for gluten-free products on the rise, grocery shelves are now lined with gluten-free products from common household food brands. Classic brands like General Mills, Bisquick, and Betty Croker have all launched gluten-free products and new brands are popping up everyday – Glutino, Van’s Natural Foods, EnjoyLife, and Udi’s Gluten Free Foods.
Gluten-Free Brands Working Hard to Engage Customers
Brand engagement is important to all brands, and manufacturers of gluten-free products are capitalizing on social media to interact with their customers. EnjoyLife posts coupons and a digital cookbook available to their Facebook followers, Udi’s has a gluten-free Welcome Kit for those new to a gluten-free lifestyle, and Betty Crocker’s gluten-free fans have created a Facebook page devoted to their gluten-free dessert mixes.
People adhering to a gluten-free lifestyle must be on the lookout for gluten hiding in foods. For help in the palm of your hand, there are a wide variety of gluten-free apps available for your iPhone. Find Me Gluten Free finds and reviews local restaurants with gluten-free menus, Healthy Diet & Grocery Food Scanner allows you to enter foods you want to avoid and when you scan a package’s bar code, displays the ingredients, and flags those that are your do not eat list. Apps really come in handy when traveling, too – Gluten-Free Disney and Allergy Free Orlando help kids and parents (and grown-up kids) eat at the Happiest Place on Earth, and Is That Gluten Free? Eating Out lists gluten-free menu items at chain restaurants like Bonefish Grill and fast food restaurants like Wendy’s.
Tasty Gluten-Free Products
On a personal note, I am a gluten-free diet connoisseur, having started my gluten-free diet before the craze. Having suffered for years with constant stomachaches, I was finally diagnosed as gluten-intolerant (and had to eliminate dairy and eggs from my diet, too). I resigned as president of Team Food. I didn’t renew my subscriptions to Bon Appetite, Cooking Light, and Rachael Ray magazines and my cookbooks started to collect dust on my bookshelf. Since adjusting my diet, the number of products catering to gluten-free consumers has steadily increased and I find myself with many options to choose from. While gluten-free products won’t ever taste as good as the original, here is a list of some of my favorite products to try:
- riceworks® Sweet Chili crisps (you really can’t eat just one!)
- Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Flours and Baking Mixes
- bionaturae® Gluten-Free Pasta
- Enjoy Life® Soft-Baked Cookies (egg-free and dairy-free, too!)
- Redbridge (gluten-free beer)
When it comes to baking, I need to be gluten-free and vegan, so finding yummy desserts can be challenging. BabyCakes is a vegan bakery in New York City that also has published several cookbooks, including BabyCakes Covers The Classics. For my birthday, my coworkers made the German Chocolate Cake – check it out on our Pinterest page. Not only does it look delicious, it was delicious (much to my coworkers surprise!)
What are your thoughts on the gluten-free craze? Do you think it’s a fad or is it here to stay?