With the popularity of gluten-free foods showing no signs of abating, the FDA last August issued a regulation to provide legitimacy to gluten-free claims. According to the agency’s final rule, products that contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten may make a gluten-free claim. This claim applies to products that naturally contain no gluten and to products that contain ingredients that have been processed to remove the gluten.
FDA’s ruling on this definition is significant, because unlike other foods and food ingredients that require disclosure by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), gluten is not an allergen. It is a protein that many have a real or perceived intolerance to. For some — those with the autoimmune condition known as celiac disease — this intolerance is life threatening. This most likely was a contributing factor to FALCPA mandating FDA to define the claim of gluten free.
Use of a gluten-free claim is voluntary, unlike mandatory disclosure of major allergens, one of which is wheat, the primary source of gluten. There also are many hidden sources of gluten. The most common are binders, colors, flavors, seasonings and texturizers.
What’s driving the growth of gluten-free foods? For those with celiac disease, complete avoidance of gluten is necessary for health. However, many non-celiacs seek out gluten-free foods because they believe such products are more healthful.
According to recent research from Chicago-based Mintel Group, 65 percent of consumers who eat gluten-free foods do so because they think they are healthier. Twenty-seven percent eat them because they feel they aid in their weight-loss efforts.
“It’s really interesting to see that consumers think gluten-free foods are healthier and can help them lose weight because there’s been no research affirming these beliefs,” says Amanda Topper, food analyst at Mintel. “The view that these foods and beverages are healthier than their gluten-containing counterparts is a major driver for the market, as interest expands across both gluten-sensitive and health-conscious consumers.”
Gluten Free Products of Note
Heat-and-Eat Premium Single-Serve Soups
Blount Fine Foods, Fall River, Mass., is launching a line of premium, single-serve, 10-oz. grab-and-go retail soups. The six varieties in the new line expand the offering of retail product sizes Blount offers in both branded and private label, which now ranges from 10-oz. to 32-oz. containers. The line includes two gluten-free offerings: Chicken Tortilla and Creamy Tomato. The other four varieties are: Baked Potato, Broccoli Cheddar, Chicken Noodle and New England Clam Chowder.
“Hot-to-go at retail has been our hottest product category for the last few years, but consumers don’t always want to eat restaurant-quality fresh soup the day they purchase it,” says Bob Sewall, executive vice president of sales & marketing. “Our consumer research indicates this new line complements the hot-to-go offering in better grocers, creating the opportunity to sell incrementally more soup at excellent margins.”
The challenge with creating the new line was getting each hand-crafted batch of soup into the small cups before the cuts of meat, vegetables and pasta begin to settle, which can lead to product inconsistency, according to Sewall. “Knowing the demand was there for a premium, single-serving, fresh soup with an excellent shelf life, we worked hard to develop the technology and production processes that enable us to launch this first-of-its-kind product,” he adds.
Moon Cheese Lands
Moon Cheese is a gluten-free crunchy cheese snack. Made only of 100 percent cheese, the shelf-stable snack product is produced using patented technology that removes only the moisture from cheese while keeping all the nutrition and flavor. Moon Cheese was developed and is produced by NutraDried LLP, which is a joint partnership between EnWave Corp. and Lucid Capital Management, all based in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Three varieties of Moon Cheese -- American Cheddar, Gouda and Pepper Jack — were part of the initial October 2013 launch in nearly 200 stores throughout two grocery store banners in the Pacific Northwest: Fred Meyer and Quality Food Centers. Both banners are owned by the Kroger Co., Cincinnati. A single serving (12g, 6-7 pieces) contains 76 calories, 6g of fat and 5g of protein.
Boldly Flavored Multigrain Chips
Richvale, Calif.-based Lundberg Family Farms, debuts a line of gluten-free Multigrain Rice Chips. Made with organic brown rice and surprising ingredients -- such as red and white quinoa, amaranth, corn, millet, garbanzo beans, chia and flax seeds -- the chips come in four signature California flavors.
Combinations are: Mendocino Tomato & Herb, Mojave Jalapeño, Redwood Smoky BBQ and Shasta Chipotle Lime. The vegan chips are available nationally in supermarkets and natural food stores at a suggested retail price of $3.48 for a 6-oz. bag.
“Our new Multigrain Chips capture the diverse flavors of California’s produce and cultures while delighting the taste buds,” says Grant Lundberg, CEO. “As Californians, our family is proud to support fellow farmers and businesses who contribute to the diversity and beauty of our state.”