I'll be honest: I'm experiencing a bit of gluten-free fatigue right now. It feels like everywhere I turn here I see another food product and another company that's hitched on to the trend. For many celiac sufferers and others trying to cut gluten out of their diet, the increase in choice is great. But what do retailers think? They're the ones who stick their necks out and stock this stuff. Is there enough demand out there to justify this sort of supply?
Like me, Jim and Mellicha Ferrier are feeling the fatigue. Co-owners of the one-store Wild Farm Foods in Burton, Michigan, the Ferrier's have been to all the major natural trade shows this year and say they've seen all the gluten-free foods they can stand. The two are looking to build a second store and came to Expo East looking for products to help expand their foodservice offerings. Rather than take on more gluten-free items, said Jim, they'll probably stock more local foods in this and other departments.
"It just feels like the whole gluten-free thing is getting beat to death," he said.
On the other side of the coin there's Andrew Shober, a manager at Sunflower Natural Food Market in Woodstock, New York. He thinks the widening variety of gluten-free offerings is interesting, especially since innovations continue to close the taste gap between these foods and their conventional counterparts. Shober said his store has integrated gluten-free products in with the rest of the store, and uses shelf tags to differentiate these items and attract customer attention.
"It's gotten to the point where gluten-free foods are almost the same quality as other foods in the store," said Shober.