The headline is attributed to a range of individuals, from Patton to Thomas Paine, but it came to mind recently when the FDA (some would say finally) reached a decision about the standard for gluten-free in foods and beverages.
The funny part is that saying came to mind because, for so long, it seemed like the FDA had opted to choose none of those options when it came to a gluten-free standard. Rumors indicated the agency would establish the rule in 2009, if not earlier. Yet, here we stand four years later, with a standard finally announced (the presumed 20 parts per million) but not taking effect for still another year, all as the market for gluten-free products continues to grow, if not at the same clip as in years past.
Past colleagues and I have had interesting chats about gluten-free products, and I’ll admit celiac disease only impacts one in 133 Americans. However, in a nation of over 300 million, that equates to nearly 3 million individuals who, until the past half-decade or so, had relatively few viable food options. And, that consumer base does not include gluten-intolerant individuals.
I will admit some biases in the area of gluten-free: numerous family members and friends follow a gluten-restricted diet. However, I also have noticed that restaurants and manufacturers seem a bit quick to jump on the gluten-free bandwagon. I will not disclose the restaurant’s name, but a friend recently noticed “Ask about our gluten-free pizza” on a restaurant menu. Being a celiac, she tried the pizza and shared a slice. I shall try to be kind: Asking about that pizza is about all I would want to do with it.
However, it is another in a string of products entering the marketplace with solely a gluten-free claim as a selling point. This is what made this year’s winner of Prepared Foods’ Spirit of Innovation Awards-Retail such a pleasant surprise. (Full disclosure: I judge the products but do not factor my scores into the judges’ panel, except as a tie-breaker, which was not needed this year.)
Classic Cooking LLC’s Veggie Muffins managed to omit gluten, while retaining flavor and mouthfeel and, perhaps most importantly, still serving as a quick and convenient option. The challenges the development teams had to overcome in crafting that product -- and all the winners -- demonstrate that developers are keen to take the lead, while others can follow or get out of the way.