Gluten-free impacts food service

by Donna Berry
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The Original Cakerie won a FABI award for its two-layer cakes.

All types of food service operations are busy expanding their gluten-free offerings. Most notably, Pizza Hut, Plano, Texas, recently started selling gluten-free pizza, but others are following suit.

“Gluten-free continues to be one of our Top 20 food trends from the National Restaurant Association (N.R.A.)’s What’s Hot Survey year over year,” said Leana Salamah, senior director, convention marketing, communications and programming for the Chicago-based association. “Diners with allergies and dietary restrictions today come to expect that operators can make adaptions and offer alternatives for them to enjoy a similar dining experience as non-restricted diners.”

But it’s not that easy to do in the food service environment.

“Creating a product that is completely free of gluten, tastes good and is free of cross contamination has proven tricky for most restaurants,” said Andrea Collins, owner of The Tasty Trend, Winter Garden, Fla. The Tasty Trend creates gourmet cupcakes in a completely gluten-free kitchen and sells them to restaurants and hotels, as well as on-line direct to consumers.

Suppliers to the food service channel recognize the challenges with onsite baking of gluten-free products and are trying to simplify the process, as showcased by exhibitors at the N.R.A. Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show held May 16-19 in Chicago. This year, a record number of the association’s Food and Beverage Innovations (FABI) Award winners were gluten-free baked goods products.

Gluten-free winners include a whoopie pie item from Cheatin’ Wheat, Littleton, Colo. The pies are made with a proprietary flour blend that bakes a light and fluffy devil’s food cake. The company picked up a second award for its versatile pancake mix designed to also be used for biscuits, scones and waffles.

Cup4Cup L.L.C., Yountville, Calif., grabbed itself a FABI Award for its new wholesome flour blend that boasts 14 grams of whole grains per serving. Based on ground golden flaxseed and rice bran, this non-GMO Project Verified flour functions as a cup-for-cup replacement for traditional wheat flour in cooking and baking.

And a FABI also went to London, Ont.-based The Original Cakerie for its two-layer cakes. There’s one featuring dark chocolate sponge cake and another with light, moist shortcake. The cakes are filled with premium ingredients such as Belgian white chocolate, strawberry fruit filling and chocolate ganache.

For on-the-go food service, two awards went to Dawn Food Products, Inc., Jackson, Mich. One is for its individually wrapped cookies that come in candy, chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin varieties and the other for individually wrapped muffins in banana nut, blueberry and double chocolate variants.

Two pastas received awards as well. Explore Asian Inc., Red Bank, N.J., created organic black bean spaghetti, and RP’s Pasta Co., Madison, Wis., developed fully cooked individually quick-frozen pasta based on brown rice flour, starch and egg.

Now in its fifth year, the annual FABI Awards recognize progressive food and beverage products anticipated to make a significant impact in the restaurant industry. The award recipients were showcased throughout the exhibit halls, as well as recognized during an awards ceremony at the show.

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