BUFFALO, N.Y., Oct. 4, 2013 – For a growing legion of foodservice operators across the United States, “gluten-free” no longer is a mere asterisk at the bottom of a menu. Instead, it’s becoming a huge dollar sign in the profit column.
With consumer demand for gluten-free products – one of the fastest-growing food categories in North America – at an all-time high, opportunities abound for foodservice outlets to take advantage of a trend that’s becoming more mainstream every day. According to one industry analyst, the number of Americans who say they are trying to reduce or eliminate gluten in their diets – nearly 30 percent of the adult population – has finally become too large for restaurant operators to ignore.
“The gluten-free movement today has gone far beyond the original intent of managing celiac disease for part of the population,” points out Tina Battistoni, Senior Marketing Manager, Foodservice Division, Rich Products Corporation. “As consumer awareness continues to increase, more and more restaurants and other foodservice operations are discovering gluten-free products as a mechanism to build loyalty by catering to special dietary needs.”
Some industry estimates put the volume of today’s U.S. gluten-free business in the $5 billion range. The gluten-free foods market grew approximately 17 percent in 2012, so it should be no surprise that gluten-free was ranked No. 2 among Time magazine’s top 10 food trends for that year. With interest in gluten-free menu listings growing unabated, the incidence of consumers ordering food labeled as gluten-free or wheat-free is evolving at a rapid pace. According to market research firm Technomic, year-over-year, the number of items on menus listed as gluten-free has increased 29 percent from the first quarter of 2012 through the first quarter of 2013.
A trusted supplier to leading foodservice outlets around the world, Rich’s will be ramping up its focus on the gluten-free marketplace, in a concerted effort to show foodservice customers the potential long-term value of the category.
“As part of our unwavering commitment to health and wellness, Rich’s is fully prepared to meet foodservice operator needs for safe, gluten-free products that satisfy consumer priorities for taste, affordability, convenience and nutritional quality,” Battistoni says. “We’re a foodservice-first brand, with proficiency in helping operators produce delicious meal solutions that delight their guests and drive profits through a wide variety of appetizing, convenient and time-saving products.”
Rich’s gluten-free products are certified by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO), she explained, and are individually wrapped to mitigate risk of cross-contamination. From pizza crusts and sandwich rolls to desserts and snacks, the company is committed to making meal choices easier and more enticing for people who choose to follow a gluten-free diet.
To help foodservice establishments meet the explosive consumer demand, Rich’s gluten-free offerings continue to expand. The leader in supplying delicious, authentic, pizzeria-quality pizza crusts to the foodservice industry, Rich’s will take genuine pizza taste to an even-higher plateau with the next generation of its gluten-free pizza crusts, coming soon.
In addition, the global food maker is preparing to launch a gluten-free sub roll and is putting the finishing touches on an improved recipe for gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. All three products promise a taste and texture that enhances the dining experience, whether or not the consumer is gluten-intolerant.
“As foodservice customers seek additional health and wellness options to meet the rising demand, we’re accelerating our efforts to provide them innovative and convenient gluten-free solutions,” states Battistoni. “We’re applying all our expertise, infrastructure and access as a premier foodservice source for delicious, valued products in the gluten-free category.”
Traditional concerns about food allergies and intolerances also still fuel consumer demand, further prompting foodservice customers to bring the availability of gluten-free products to the forefront. It is estimated that more than 3 million Americans – roughly one in 133 citizens, or about 1 percent of the population – live with celiac disease, the autoimmune condition that causes the body to react negatively to gluten found in wheat, rye and barley, among other foods. And, an estimated 18 million Americans have non-celiac gluten sensitivities, according to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.
For this large, underserved group, the key to an enjoyable dining-out experience of any kind has been the availability of great-tasting, gluten-free foods and the assurance that they are prepared in a safe manner.
More and more, Rich’s is helping foodservice businesses show their patrons that living gluten-free doesn’t mean living flavor-free. With its extensive portfolio of gluten-free bakery products and unsurpassed culinary expertise in the foodservice business, Rich’s is a leading source for gluten-free foods touted for their great taste and texture.