Gluten-free takes center stage at Pizza Expo

The global gluten-free market is set to grow by $1.2 billion throughout the next five years, eventually reaching $4.3 billion by 2015, according to recent research by Datamonitor.

A majority of that market growth will come from the U.S. foodservice industry, which is expected to grow by more than $500 million by 2014.

Several pizza companies have tapped into the gluten-free market, including Uno Chicago Grill, Mellow Mushroom, Naked Pizza and Garlic Jim’s, offering alternative options for those who suffer from celiac disease and diet subscribers alike.

The gluten-free industry has garnered a strong enough foothold to be represented at the 2011 International Pizza Expo, March 1-3 in Las Vegas.

The oldest and largest pizza-only trade show will feature gluten-free industry experts Alice Bast, president and founder of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), and Bryan Scherer, Penford Food Ingredient Company's director of research and development.

The duo will host an educational session titled "Understanding Gluten-free Foodservice Opportunities" from 9-10:30 a.m. March 1 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. A demonstration will be held later in the day.

This is the first session at the expo to be focused on gluten-free offerings. It will cover how gluten-free products are impacting food service and offering a chance for new menu opportunities, as well as evolving trends, finished product concepts and a "how-to" lesson on creating safe and tasty gluten-free items that can increase traffic and drive revenue.

"With the right ingredients and proper training, any establishment can implement a successful gluten-free menu, boost revenue and increase customer loyalty," said Bast. "Our goal is to make sure the foods we so enjoy eating are available everywhere and are safe for our gluten-free families."

With the expanding population of Americans affected by celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, demand for gluten-free products and menus continues to climb. The market posted sales of $2.6 billion in 2010, according to Packaged Facts market research.

Despite a growing demand, however, many in the foodservice industry have been reluctant or slow to adopt gluten-free options because of a "passing trend" perception and the difficulty of implementing such menu offerings and cross-contamination safeguards.

The NFCA provides gluten-free training, as well as tools to manage the gluten-free market.

The International Pizza Expo will feature close to 1,000 exhibits and more than 80 educational sessions, as well as culinary competitions, contests, demonstrations and other special events.

Photo provided by Whatsername?

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