on September 3, 2016 by in Golden News, Comments Off on Gluten-free foods gain steam

Gluten-free foods gain steam

On a sunny August morning, Kathy Letson sits inside her Centennial bakery and talks about how she started her business, her voice drowned out by the doorbell’s ringing as a steady stream of customers comes and goes.Since she opened Gluten Escape in 2012, Letson has seen her business grow as demand for gluten-free foods has increased. Though her success might seem to be the result of savvy marketing and good timing, her reasons for starting the shop were personal.”I come into this with a mother’s heart,” she said.In 1998, Letson’s son Nick was born, and it soon became apparent something wasn’t right. His teeth weren’t forming and he wasn’t growing as he should.”He was literally a failure-to-thrive child,” she said. “When you look at the growth charts at the pediatrician’s office, he wasn’t even on the graph… It was scary.”Doctors were at a loss to find a cause. It wasn’t until he was 2 1/2 years old that another pediatrician overheard Letson and her child’s doctor, and suggested removing gluten from the child’s diet.”I went home and threw out every bit of gluten in the house,” Letson said, smiling. “Now he’s 6-foot-1.”Whether or not they’ve had an experience like Letson’s, Americans have heard more and more about gluten in recent years. Many restaurants offer gluten-free menus, grocery stores label gluten-free items on their shelves and breweries around the United States have been rushing to add gluten-free beers and ciders to their product lines.One in five Americans say they actively try to include gluten-free foods in their diet, according to a 2015 Gallup poll. And according to customer research firm Mintel, that added up to $ 10.5 billion spent on gluten-free foods in 2013, with that figure projected to rise to $ 15.6 billion for 2016.On the rise”It’s definitely a trend that’s increasing, and I don’t think everyone who wants to go gluten-free fully understands why they should,” said board-certified Holistic Nutritionist Denise DeRosier.Extensive studies established gluten as the cause of celiac disease, an auto-immune disorder affecting at least 3 millionpeople in the U.S., according to the Celiac Disease Center at the University of Chicago. A recent study by Columbia University researchers found an additional 3 million people have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or NCGS, experiencing immune system responses similar to celiac disease. Together, the two conditions affect about 2 percent of the U.S. population.Local nutritionists Angela Baird and DeRosier said many of their clients, even those without celiac disease or NCGS, report relief from symptoms such as ADD/ADHD, anxiety, joint pain, fatigue and migraines. DeRosier added that cancer and multiple sclerosis patients have reported lessened symptoms after giving up gluten.While the scientific community hasn’t yet produced data to support all of these claims, people like Deahna Brockman aren’t waiting.”I definitely see the difference in my own body,” said Brockman, a Parker photographer and mother of two. “It’s had a tremendous effect on me.”Brockman, 47, said she lost 15 pounds within about a year after removing gluten from her diet. She admitted she was skeptical that eliminating gluten could make a difference in her health, but since making the change she’s taken up bouldering with her children and works out at the gym regularly.”My level of energy skyrocketed,” she said. “I feel like I’m in better shape than I was 10 years ago.”Many of her clients have similar experiences to Brockman’s after going gluten-free, said DeRosier, a Highlands Ranch resident. “They have more clarity, their moods are better, they don’t have the same depression or anxiety.”Though it may be a healthier choicefor some to eat gluten-free meals, DeRosier said she doesn’t advertise her cooking as gluten-free when she entertains.”I don’t say ‘Come over for this gluten-free meal’ because the expectation is that it’s going to taste awful,” she said. “After dinner, I’ll say ‘By the way, it also happens to be gluten-free.’ “Adapting your tasteChris Lehn owns Yumbana Shoppe in Castle Rock. After he, his wife and sons tested positive for gluten sensitivity, they quickly became dissatisfied with gluten-free fare in grocery stores. Lehn took matters into his own hands.”Unfortunately, as a gluten-free person you find yourself adapting your taste to what’s available instead of the other way around,” Lehn said. “Our goal was to make a product that is as good or better as you remember as a non-gluten-free person.”Focusing on wholesale and online shoppers, Yumbana Shoppe has made a name for itself producing a variety of pies, cakes and cookies, not to mention the “yummy banana” bread that helped Lehn arrive at the company’s name. Yumbana products are on King Soopers shelves and Lehn said he is “knocking on the door” of Safeway and other grocery stores.Being in large-scale distribution keeps Lehn from meeting many customers, Lehn said. But feedback at the recent Taste of Douglas County and Incredible Edible Gluten-Free Food Fair in Denver has been “very, very positive.””We literally saw hundreds of people come by, and we could hear some of them whispering about us before they got to the booth,” he said. “It was really encouraging.”He added that many parents thank him for offering treats their children otherwise wouldn’t be able to enjoy, like birthday cake and snacks for school.From behind the counter of her brick-and-mortar bakery, Letson said she’s heard the same comments from parents and other customers.Gluten Escape makes a variety of baked goods, from pastries to pizza dough to pretzels, and Letson said she often makes special recipes based on customer suggestions written on an “idea board” in the shop.”We’re not here to push a product on anyone,” she said. “We’re here to try to give people what they want.”Customer loyalty is a point of pride with Letson. She said she received 80 to 100 calls a day when the store experienced a recent hiatus as it transitioned from its old location in the Denver Tech Center to the Centennial store.Letson was surprised, she said, when customers drove through blizzard conditions to receive free balls of pizza dough and pumpkin pies before the reopening. She couldn’t sell the items at the time without a health department license, so she asked her erstwhile customers to donate as they saw fit to the St. Francis Center in Denver instead.Her customer retention since reopening in December has been over 80 percent, Letson said.”When someone can go to Walmart and get gluten-free products,” she said, “that says a lot.”Not ‘just a phase’Like most trends, the popularity of the gluten-free diet has attracted criticism, and detractors wonder if the gluten-free diet is more about money than medicine.Dr. Patrice Michaletz-Onody, a gastroenterologist with Rocky Mountain Gastroenterology, said unless a patient has celiac disease or NCGS, there are no proven benefits to eliminating gluten from their diet.”People have gone crazy saying you’ll be cured of everything if you go off gluten,” she said. “The only thing you’ll cure for certain is celiac.”That said, she added there are no nutritional benefits to eating gluten, either.”If people come in and they’re doing something that improves their symptoms — they’re pretty happy, they’re improving their quality of life — there’s no reason to put it back in their diet,” Michaletz-Onody said. “There’s nothing beneficial from it.”One aspect of the gluten-free diet that isn’t in dispute is its cost.Consumer Reports released a study in November 2014 that found a vast difference in the cost between gluten-free foods and their counterparts. Examples from the study are Duncan Hines regular brownie mix, which costs about 8 cents per serving, while Betty Crocker’s gluten-free mix costs 28 cents per serving. The per-serving cost of Nabisco’s Multigrain Wheat Thins is 31 cents, but the company’s gluten-free Sea Salt & Pepper Rice Thins are 57 cents per serving.DeRosier said she sometimes meets people who ask whether it’s all just a ploy to sell trendy, expensive food products.”I do have people who will come up to me at parties and ask if it’s all just a big marketing scam,” DeRosier said. “That’s when I try to explain to people that it isn’t just a phase.”Lehn said he has some of the same conversations but isn’t worried it will affect his client base.”What some folks don’t understand is that this isn’t a fad, it’s a diet,” he said, adding that even people like athletes and those without health requirements are trying to remove gluten from their diets.”When you start adding up all of these groups, you’re talking about a large section of people,” he said. “We get a new customer diagnosed every day.”

Golden Transcript – Latest Stories

Tags: , , ,

Comments are disabled.