Requests for gluten-free menu items are not coming only from those with gluten sensitivities anymore. Americans have gotten it into their heads that a gluten-free diet is a healthier way to eat. As of January, 2013, almost one-third of U.S. adults say they want to cut down or be free of gluten in their diets, according to The NPD Group, which has been tracking the eating habits of Americans since 1976.
- 200 million restaurant visits now include a gluten-free order
- Nearly 30% of the adult population wants to avoid gluten and the percentage is growing. "This is the health issue of the day," reports NPD's Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst
- A greater proportion of diners is interested in cutting back on or avoiding gluten than ever before. Since 2010, the percentage has risen from 25.5% to nearly 30% in January of this year
- The incidence of consumers ordering food described on restaurant menus as "gluten-free" or "wheat-free" has more than doubled since 2009
Balzer points out that as recently as 2011, it appeared that this "health" trend might have run its course, but it has since picked up momentum. "It's not that we want health and wellness more, but that we are constantly changing how we address health and wellness," he says. "A generation ago, health was about avoiding fat, cholesterol, sugar and sodium in our diet. While those desires still exist for many, they no longer are growing concerns. Today, increasingly more of us want to avoid gluten …"