Since I’ve been a coeliac for two years now, I thought I’d blog about life as a coeliac and my transition to a gluten-free diet. Being a fairly new bean, and gluten-free, I’ve found it extremely interesting working in the hospitality industry, especially as part of such a dynamic and thriving PR Agency in Foodservice.

My transition to gluten-free has been challenging at times, but after trying various different brands offering gluten-free, I’ve found certain ones that have passed my taste bud challenge. Which ones would I recommend? Hmm, let’s see…Warburtons for their sliced bread & sandwich thins, Udi’s for their bagels, Heinz for their pasta, Nestle for their Corn Flakes, Delicious Alchemy for their Golden Syrup Porridge Oats, and not to mention Almondy, the gluten-free Swedish Bakery, who I am lucky enough to have as a client here at Jellybean.

The demand for gluten-free is no doubt on the rise, whether this is for coeliac / gluten intolerance reasons, or simply a wish to eat a little healthier. Food operators are recognising this – a recent survey conducted by Horizons / JRA revealed that 78% of them acknowledged that gluten-free dishes were gaining importance*. I have certainly found that dining out at restaurants is becoming easier. Many chains offer a separate menu specifically for gluten-free, and the rest are pretty good when it comes to altering a dish. Many pizza outlets offer a gluten-free base, and I have to say that Pizza Express have the most amazing one!

On the subject of Pizza Express, I recently visited my local branch, and with the new Food Information Regulation having come into force in December 2014 (requiring all businesses to provide information about the allergenic ingredients they provide or sell), I was able to see this in action (lucky me!). As I ordered my usual La Reine on a gluten-free base (swapping mushrooms for artichokes of course!), the lovely waitress proceeded to present to me an entire booklet featuring all their dishes, each indicating allergenic ingredients where relevant. I was very impressed with the way in which this was done, and how thorough they were, although I was ready to chew my own arm off when my pizza finally did arrive!

So it’s pretty clear that dining out at restaurants is becoming a lot easier for coeliacs, however, I’ve found that trying to grab something ‘on the go’ is extremely difficult. The problem is choice – there isn’t a big one (or none at all in some cases). For example, it’s almost impossible to find a snack / quick lunch in a coffee shop. I would definitely like to see more availability of gluten-free foods in such outlets, and I’m sure many other coeliacs out there would agree. In fact, 73% of people do! These consumers do not think that food operators do enough to cater for gluten intolerances**.

I hope that these businesses start to utilise the help and resources supplied by Coeliac UK in order to tap into this lucrative market. The one in 100 people who suffer from coeliac disease, including the friends and family they eat out with, are worth a potential £100m†, so caterers, you could be missing out!

*Horizons, December 2014
** Toluna research, 2014
† Coeliac UK

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Keep reading! Why not read our blog on Life as a bread-loving coeliac