|Restaurants and foodservice manufacturers are responding to this increasing demand for gluten-free menu items. According to NPD’s MenuTrack, which analyzes menu trends of the top 53 Canadian restaurants, there were 36 per cent more mentions of “gluten free” on menus in 2012 than there were in 2011. “Gluten free” is also the top menu item health claim, with 4.8 mentions per menu compared to the next distant health claim, “low calorie”, which has one mention per menu.|
The NPD Group notes that these modified eating habits are due in part to the constant evolution of how people address health and wellness. In the past, eating healthily involved avoiding fat, cholesterol, sugar and sodium. While many still take this approach, new nutritional information, sudden allergy developments, modern diets and passing fads have shaped both how and what we eat.
“Dining trends change from generation to generation, but the gluten-free movement is also indicative of a larger North American craze: self-diagnosis,” continued Carter. “With endless health and medical advice a mere mouse click away, people are eagerly researching their symptoms and trying the latest quick fixes to cure ailments, and the recommended solution often involves making changes to one’s diet.”
Regardless of the reason, the number of adults who are consuming less gluten or avoiding it altogether is too large for the restaurant industry to ignore. Operators should look for opportunities to address consumer needs, such as offering advertising and clearly identifying a variety of gluten-free menu items, being flexible with ingredient substitutions and ensuring staff can answer relevant questions to attract and retain this new target market.
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