Gluten-Free Food: 2010's Hot Trend?

August 1, 2010

I've recently read a few articles describing gluten-free diets as trendy. Heck, The Daily Beast added gluten-free food to its list of Top Ten Biggest Food Trends of 2010 , right alongside coconut, bacon-flavored sweets, and 'tricked-out popcorn.' It seemed a bit insensitive to me at first. While I agree that gluten-free diets do fall in line with the general definition of a trend, in that there seems to be a greater prevalence of individuals being diagnosed with celiac's disease or at least a sensitivity to gluten, describing something as "trendy" also implies that it is a fad- popular, current, and possibly passing. And unfortunately for those who do have an intolerance to gluten (and therefore wheat and nearly all related grains), adopting a modified diet is anything but passing.

“So many people have wheat allergies, and even if they don’t, they just feel better if they don’t eat wheat,” says The Fancy Food Show’s Ron Tanner. His point was evident at this year's event, where it seemed labels like organic, vegan, and gluten-free were everywhere you looked. Even the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, the association organizing the show, felt similarly. Publicist Jennifer Lea Cohan was quoted in a New York Times article as saying, “Judging from this show you’d think the whole world had celiac disease.”

Lately, I've thought the same. In planning the International Food Blogger Conference, due to take place at the end of August here in Seattle, I couldn't help but wonder if half of our attendee list was gluten-free. I've received emails and Twitter messages asking about the event, the agenda, and most frequently, the food. Will there be gluten-free options? Making careful note that many of our guests have dietary restrictions, I've spent time informing chefs that our hope at the event is to have quite the inclusive spread. A range of dishes for every palate and preference.

Only recently have I taken a closer look at the hard numbers of guests with these special dietary concerns. Now, with the conference sold out and hopeful attendees placed on a waiting list, I'm able to assess the list of roughly 250. What a surprise it's been. Below is the distribution of eating restrictions for IFBC. To be clear, if someone was both gluten-free and vegetarian, they were counted once for each category. On the list of food allergies, no more than one or two people were noted as being allergic to each food.


IFBC Food Allergies and Eating Restrictions:

  • Gluten-free: 17
  • Vegetarian: 12
  • Dairy-free: 9
  • Vegan: 2


List of allergies:





Egg yolk (large quantities)











Raw onion (shallots, leeks, chives)

Raw pineapple


Roasting peppers (fumes)




Stone fruit (nectarines, peaches)


Interesting. Not nearly the stats I'd imagined from all of my correspondence with guests inquiring about gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options. How naive of me to think that a dozen or so emails meant gluten-free was taking over the world. Of course I'd only be hearing from folks with food allergies or serious restrictions. An omnivore isn't going to send me  letter informing, "I eat everything. Please plan accordingly." The individuals with gluten-intolerance are wise to speak up about their needs. And while their voices don't make them a majority, the prevalence and more mainstream status of the G-Free community can be viewed as a success. In her Examiner article, health writer Liz Schau points out, "Our lifestyle diets and ways of eating will be taken more and more seriously, in hopes that new standards for gluten-free certification and quality control and labeling will become regulated."

What do you think about the prevalence of gluten-free diets? Do you think g-free food merits a spot on the Top Ten Food Trends of 2010?

-Andrea Mitchell, Foodista staff and blogger at



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carla's picture

Check out Hipp Kitchen. You will find lots of ideas for gluten free meals and gluten free restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Katie's picture

As someone recently diagnosed with Celiac and "forced" to go gluten-free, it greatly bothers me to hear "gluten-free" described as a trendy or fad diet. I'm all for more education about Celiac and gluten-intolerance. However, I'm afraid that those who are just trying to be gluten-free because they think it's healthier or a way to lose weight shortchange those of us who have to do so out of necessity. I'm afraid people for whom being gluten-free is medically necessary may not be taken as seriously because of the "fad dieters" out there who can afford to be more lax about being gluten-free.

Lee's picture

I agree, gluten free food is being treated as a new fad. For those of us who are required to remove the family of wheat products from our diets, it is not trendy nor a fad to us.
I suspect some in the medical field may be jumping the gun on diagnoses without going thru all of the tests. When you hear someone saying "my doctor told me to go on a gluten free diet to see if that makes a difference", then it's time for the person to become their own advocate and see another doctor.
The average person not required to be on a gluten free diet does not realize that our continuing to eat gluten filled foods, (even with no symptons) can wreak havoc on the body. In the long run, anemia, gout, CFS, autoimmune arthritis, thyroiditis and other illnesses can appear with no explanation.
Basically we need the basic prepared gluten free foods at a comparable price to the existing foods. There are so many prepared foods that have wheat as a thickener added for which tapicoa, rice, cornstarch or arrowroot flours could be substituted.

Destination Healthy Foods's picture

I think the gluten free trend will open the doors to much more balanced cuisine in the near future.

Catherine's picture

I do not have to eat gluten-free but have been trying to bake more GF within my home. The way I look at it is that our American diet has become too wheat laden. When you take into consideration the enormous amount of other grain options out there, why are we so focused on wheat? Other cultures have been eating other grains and flours for centuries. Perhaps we are too restrictive. I agree that the GF 'trend' will open up more opportunities in food in the future. I can eat plenty of gluten products outside my home, so why not try to be more GF within it?

Christina D's picture

I would agree with Katie. "trendy" "fad diet" not good.

I have an 18 month old son who has severe diagnosed food allergies (dairy, soy, tree nuts and peanuts) and has recently been presenting common symptoms of Celiac's.

Both anaphylaxic food allergies and Celiac's seriousness gets muddled when people go off a specific food-stuff (dairy, wheat, ect) and then claim to have an allergy simply because they feel better without proper testing and consultation with a doctor. Since many people use the word "allergy" instead of "intolerance" to waiters/friend/family members/ co-workers/general public the meaning of the word "allergy" gets diluted which makes it hard for me to safety take my son to public places, such as a family member's house or a restaurant. A lot of times people think he will only get a stomach ache or diarrhea if he ingests the problematic food, when in fact he could have a life-threatening reaction.

Celiacs in the House's picture

I have found that when I inform people that my children and I have celiac disease, we are taken seriously. I think the more people become aware of the gluten-free diet, the safer we are. Yes, it is trendy right now, but partly due to the increase in people finally getting a diagnosis and more healthcare professionals seeing the benefits for helping with other autoimmune diseases, cancer patients, even athletes see benefits. To me it is all helpful. As one of the 17 gluten-free types heading to IFBC this month, I am so happy to hear we will be well-fed despite our GF diet.

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Katherine Gray's picture

I'm always a little shocked when people ask me if eating gluten-free is a "lifestyle choice." Uh, no. I don't enjoy hauling around GF nut bars, avoiding certain great restaurants altogether because there just aren't enough options to make it worth eating there, spending shocking amounts of money on what to many people are food basics like bread.

On the upside, there seems to be a little more knowledge among waitstaff now that more people are asking about gluten-free options. But when eating gluten-free is perceived as optional it only means that even those of us who really, truly can't ever have gluten are seen as picky or selfish or inconvenient.