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At least once a week I get asked "How long do you think this Gluten-Free fad will be around?" It is an interesting question in that many wish it would just go away and be done while others believe the change in diet, foods, and preferences have completely redefined the quality of their lives.

Another standard question I get once people find out how I spend my days is "Why are there so many more food allergies now?" As much as I wish I had a crystal ball in my life for many reasons, I don't. And although there are many theories about "why now" vs. 10 years ago, the bottom line is ready or not, here and now, it is.

Is $26 billion enough?

According to, by 2017, analysts believe that the market for food allergy and intolerance products will be worth in excess of $26 billion. That number is not one to take lightly. To all the people that say that Gluten Free will be going away by the end of 2011 - it may be time to rethink that.

Less than 5 percent have been diagnosed.

It is widely believed that less than 5 percent of people with Celiac Disease have actually been diagnosed. The fact that it's thought to effect one in every 133 people in the country makes it a game changer in our industry. Yes, you may be a simple sub shop, but find a way to serve this type of diner or miss a huge sector of the eating public.

Even down the shore

Even in some strange and unique places these menus, practices, and trends are driving business in amazing ways.

Last Sunday morning, I met with a general manager of Shenanigans, an Irish Pub smack dab in the middle of the boardwalk in Ocean City, Md. The owner has been there for more than 20 years serving beers and brats for the many who sit dine and drink on the oceanfront deck.

With the guidance of the general manger, Mike, the restaurant has jumped on the bandwagon of specialty diners, which has brought a lot of business this season. Being an independent, single location, no government authority has mandated it to provide nutritional information or to meet the needs of specialty diners, however it has the following menus:

  • Gluten-free
  • Dairy free
  • MSG free
  • And peanut aware menu items

Efforts in the back of the house are made to keep cross contamination at bay and be allergy aware at all times.

Are you ready?

Are you ready to be an allergen friendly, gluten-free offering location? Do you have items today that can serve and assist the special needs diner? Is the back of your house ready to keep cross contact at bay and prevent cross contamination? What is the impact on your business to providing this? What is the impact to not?

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Deb Wheaton
    Thanks for the great article. FYI - part of the reason for the explosion in the GF market is easier and better testing which equals an increase in diagnosis. Numbers of Celiacs are doubling every 15 years. YES! The gluten-free market is here to stay. The gluten-free consumer is HUNGRY for more options. Bring it on!
    Deb Wheaton (ironic, I know. But no one with Celiac or a wheat allergy forgets my name.
  • Linda Hall
    I think that an argument can be made for Gluten Free being a fad, not for those who have medical issues with gluten, but for the general market. If you look back over the past 20 years of so, large numbers of consumers have avoided fat and carbohydrates; now many are focusing on gluten.
    The good news: increased availability of products and information for the people who really need it.
    The bad news: lots of people will be unnecessarily altering their diets hoping that eliminating gluten will do something magical for them (make them lose weight?) By focusing on one ingredient or food group, they may make short term improvements but those won't be sustainable.
    Who knows what the next big thing to avoid will be. I'm going to guess it will go in the other direction. The next big 'nutritional' food fad will be finding and eating foods that are naturally high in Vitamin D.

  • Bharat Bureau
    All over this is very good post according this topic.
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Menu Labeling, Food Allergies and Gluten Free

Latest posts by Betsy Craig
Betsy Craig
Betsy Craig brings 20 years of food service industry experience to MenuTrinfo, LLC a menu nutritional labeling Company. Her commitment to the betterment of the food industry and her desire to affect the dining public are the driving forces behind her new company Kitchens with Confidence, LLC.
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