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More Than Ever, Americans Trying to Cut Down or Avoid Gluten

CHICAGO -- A third of U.S. adults say they want to cut down on gluten or remove it from their diets altogether, according to a study by The NPD Group.

The research firm’s bi-weekly study, "Dieting Monitor," tracks top-of-mind dieting and nutrition-related issues for consumers and reported 30 percent of adults claimed to cut down or avoid gluten completely in January.

“For as long as NPD has been tracking the eating habits of Americans, which is since 1976, they have been expressing a desire to eat healthier foods and beverages,” said Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst and author of "Eating Patterns in America."

Balzer said we are constantly changing how we address health and wellness, and just when the gluten-free "health trend" appeared to run its course, a greater portion of the adult population said they wanted to lessen or remove their gluten intake.

"A generation ago, health was about avoiding fat, cholesterol, sugar and sodium in our diet. While those desires still exist for many, they no longer are growing concerns," said Balzer. "Today, increasingly more of us want to avoid gluten in our diet and right now it is nearly 30 percent of the adult population…and it’s growing. This is the health issue of the day.”

As a result, interest in gluten-free menu items at restaurants is also growing. NPD's CREST foodservice market research found that the incidence of consumers ordering food described as "gluten-free" or "wheat-free" has grown over time and is now more than double what it was four years ago -- more than 200 million restaurant visits in the past year.

"The number of U.S. adults who say they are cutting down on or avoiding gluten is too large for restaurant operators to ignore," said Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. "Restaurant operators and marketers can find opportunities to address consumer needs when it comes to their growing interest in cutting down on or avoiding gluten, like training staff to accurately answer customer questions, or using symbols on menus and menu boards to highlight items that are gluten-free, as a way to extend consumer awareness and confidence in ordering."

Source: The NPD Group/"Dieting Monitor," 52 week data year ending Jan. 30

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