More than half of restaurant chains to expand gluten-free menu

Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Denver, CO, United States (4E) – As the demand for low-calorie and organic products grows, gluten-free food is getting more hype as more than half of restaurant chains in the United States are expected to offer more gluten-free dishes.

Restaurant supply-chain coop SpenDifference’s menu price survey revealed that 52 percent of restaurant chains will be offering more gluten-free dishesfor their health-conscious diners this year.

The survey also revealed that 37 percent of the participating restaurants want to serve locally-sourced ingredients and menu items while 13 percent are eyeing organic food.

The third menu price survey said nine percent of surveyed restaurants are already offering organic products, 36 percent use local products, 53 percent offer light- and low-calorie options, and 55 percent have gluten-free items.

Specialty restaurants like The Original Soupman of Soupman Inc. (OTC: SOUP) have come up with their own gluten-free soups: Manhattan clam chowder, vegetarian chili, butternut squash, tomato basil, tomato wild rice, tomato zucchini, so many beans, garden vegetable, lentil and cream of asparagus.

The Original Soupman food trucks and delicatessen franchises also offer some of the gluten-free items. Lentil soup is also being sold in supermarkets, through Soupman’s packaged soup line. The item can easily be bought in 4,000 stores all over the country or through Amazon and comes in environment-friendly Tetra Pak containers.

SpenDifference president and chief executive officer Maryanne Rose said the growing demand for low-calorie and gluten-free menu items will “be with us for a long time.”

“Operators recognize that a growing number of customers have health-related dietary restrictions, and they are revamping their menus to include choices for them, as well as for those who simply want more healthful choices,” she said.

Mintel, a market research firm, found in a survey that the gluten-free industry grew by 44 percent from 2011 to 2013. It pegs the industry’s size at P10.5 billion. Mintel said 24 percent of the consumers that participated in the survey are either following a gluten-free diet or have someone in their household who does.

A recent report from Research and Markets predicts the global gluten-free industry’s annual revenue growth to be 11.4 percent from 2013 to 2018. It also expects gluten-free food to grow in volume by 9.9 percent.

However, the SpenDifference survey also revealed that 11 percent of limited-service change will reduce their organic items this year. Rose said it might be because of supply issues.

“Better-for-you items are niche products, and movement on these is not as high as mainstay menu offerings. Low-volume movement adds to freight costs, and distributors can have a hard time stocking the items,” Rose explained.

She said smaller restaurant chains should work closely with distributors to solve the problem or consider finding a local source.

An important insight included in the report is that although the gluten-free trend is pushing the price of wheat and grain products higher, resulting in higher menu prices, health-conscious consumers are willing to pay additional for them.

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