When Lockhart Fine Foods introduced gluten-free versions of its frozen dough energy bars, the company thought it had a winner. The ready-to-bake products contain nuts, seeds, pureed fruit and natural sweeteners and are sold in retailer refrigerated cases in retailer as well as to food service chains.
While the gluten-free varieties resonate with consumers, restaurant and institution operators still opt to buy the regular ones because of the challenges in the “back of the house,” noted Deborah Nease, co-founder of the Lockhart, Texas-based company.
“How do you do gluten-free in food service?” she asked rhetorically. “That’s a tough sell. You need a separate kitchen for baking those products to meet the certified gluten-free standard. It requires training and retraining, and [going gluten-free] is not a risk that many of our customers are willing to take.”
In supermarkets, she added, “made with gluten-free ingredients” or “wheat-free” are the only claims that bakery customers are comfortable putting on their label. In this risk-averse business environment where companies are being sued on a regular basis for making health claims, taking the road most traveled is often the safest way to go.