What's new in gluten free?

Starbucks GF Tuna Sandwich jpeg gf.jpgIn the past few months I have seen a number of large companies getting on the gluten free bandwagon. Starbucks has launched a gf sandwich in some of their outlets, Waitrose have had a five page feature in their magazine focussing on gluten free food for everyone, Sainsbury's have completely re-vamped their free from range and are said to be adding a lot of new items to their frozen range, M & S are also launching a range of gluten free products  and all the major retailers now stock Genius bread.  There are even rumours about Pizza Express.  Their MD has said that the launch of a gluten free range is imminent.  So what seems to be fueling this new wave of gf friendly food?  I suspect that there is more than the sound of cash registers ringing to make such a dramatic change to the sheer number of new products available  and the improvement in the quality of products on offer.  Although there must be a high level of profit to be made to make retailers sit up and take notice, I suspect that there may be other reasons behind the shift in attitude.  Genius has certainly opened the way by making retailers see that the demand for "normal" everyday gluten free basics is strong and that consumers are willing to pay a premium for fresh style products.  Starbuck's has puzzled many of us in the gluten free world with it's introduction of the first high street gf sandwich made with Genius bread.   The "sandwich" has gotten lots of attention and comments on the Coeliac and DH message board.  It seems strange that a company which has had a range of gluten free cakes which are now labelled "unsuitable for coeliacs" should take the extraordinary step of bringing out a gf sandwich.  There is a lot of controversy about the said sandwich as the production methods employed indicate that the sandwich may not be as gf as one would imagine!  To some, the fact that the sandwich is available is enough and they see this as Starbucks "helping us" to have a normal everyday experience which most people take for granted. (Have a look on the Food Matters Website, which is calling on all coeliac's to go out and support the Starbucks GF Sandwich).  To others, and that includes me, it seems that their attempt to introduce this type of product when it's not made in a dedicated gf facility, smacks of something more sinister.  Pulling the wool over peoples eyes and cashing in on the desperation and sense of isolation that many coeliac's feel at not being able to join in on normal everyday activities like having a sandwich on the high street.  There is a large dose of denial working in the mindset of many coeliac's and some recent figures show that up to 60% of adults who have this condition cheat on a regular basis. It seems that the pull towards gluten and wheat is strong, not so much because we crave it, but because the alternatives don't offer the same lifestyle experience and what is often available doesn't quite seem as attractive or "normal".  Inclusion seems what most people with coeliac disease seem to crave.  This makes sense when you look at the range of products which are most successful in the gf aisles.  Sausage rolls, pizza, Yorkshire puddings are high on everyone's lists.  Convenience runs a close second, things that are normal and require little or no preparation like: fish fingers, chicken nuggets, ready made meals. Taste comes much further down the list of requirements.  I sometimes despair at the number of "me too" lookalike products in the free from aisle.  I understand why they are there, but in my heart I would love to see more flavourful, naturally gluten free options.  I would also love to see more of the unnecessary gluten removed from products so that they are suitable for everyone.  On a recent supermarket visit I was mumbling furiously in the cake making section.  It seems that all the cake decorations and writing icing are no longer gluten free.  This is the sort of thing which drives me 'round the bend as adding gluten to decorating icing is unnecessary.  So, what I would love to see is manufacturers taking gluten out of their recipes and replacing it wherever possible with gluten free alternatives.  This would make life for everyone with Coeliac a lot easier, a lot less expensive and a lot more inclusive.  What are your thoughts on this?    If you are a manufacturer of gluten free products, I'd love to hear your perspective.  If you are a manufacturer and are looking to jump on the gf bandwagon, I would love to talk to you!  If you are a coeliac and have a point of view please feel free to come and express yourself. 

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