That’s the view of Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac UK, which is receiving an increasing number of enquiries from the restaurant sector about how to offer more gluten-free options.
“The gluten-free market has consistently been one of the fastest growing sectors in retail and the catering industry is now playing catch-up,” Sleet told BigHospitality. “We’re getting more and more enquires from the sector and we’re really pleased to see that the needs of people with coeliac disease are increasingly being taken into consideration.
“One in 100 people have the condition but they don’t eat alone - by offering those gluten-free options, businesses are securing the custom of that one person and the at least two or three friends and family they eat out with. Our research estimates that the gluten-free market is worth £100m and this is largely untapped at the moment so there is still time to get ahead of the curve and access the gluten-free pound.”
“Some establishments are already catering gluten-free and doing it very well but the rest of the industry needs to get up to speed. For people with coeliac disease, following the gluten-free diet is their only treatment and it is for life. They want to eat out with choice and safety and to enjoy the experience just like everyone else and it is really important that chefs take on gluten-free food as part of their repertoire.”
Prezzo is now serving gluten-free pizzas in all of its Italian restaurants across the UK. Customers can now choose a gluten-free pizza from its range of 13 stone-baked pizzas including Margherita, Spicy Beef, Quattro Formaggi and Vegetarian.
The group’s chief executive Jonathan Kaye said: “Perhaps as many as nine million people in the UK are gluten-sensitive.
“I am confident that many of our customers will welcome the opportunity to enjoy one of our new gluten-free pizzas in our restaurants or as a takeaway.
“We undertook a lot of research in order to source what we believe is an excellent tasting pizza base and to develop the perfect gluten-free pizza.”
Pizza Hut & La Tasca
Meanwhile, Pizza Hut will roll out gluten-free pizza to all its restaurants next week.
From 8 October, the chain will offer square gluten-free bases developed in association with Coeliac UK.
The company has also reformulated toppings such as BBQ sauce so gluten-intolerant diners can choose from the full menu.
“We are extremely proud of our new pizza,” said marketing manager Victoria Clarke. “Coupled with the gluten-free salad products on offer, we are confident that our customers will like it.”
Spanish tapas chain La Tasca, which increased the number of dishes suitable for diners unable to tolerate gluten to 34 in February this year and stocks a gluten-free beer, celebrated the news it was the winner of the Best for Gluten-Free category in the Healthy Food Guide this summer.
La Tasca’s chief executive Simon Wilkinson said: "Here at La Tasca we are passionate about offering our customers a variety of dishes, so the launch of our gluten free offering has been a great way to make our menu more accessible to more people.
“The award win follows a period of significant change for the business and we’re thrilled to see this is being well received by both our customers and the media."
Top tips to go gluten-free
Gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye triggers an immune reaction in people with coeliac disease. Sleet from Coeliac UK gave the following pieces of advice to businesses considering upping their gluten-free options:
- “It is key that businesses look at their food safety practices and adjust them to accommodate gluten-free – think of it as an additional hazard in your kitchen. You already manage a number of hazards and this additional one will mean some extra diligence and adjustments of practices.
- “Ingredient selection is another thing to think about as you can often make a meal that is gluten-free just by using alternative mainstream ingredients.
- “Finally, get your communication right and people will know and trust what you are offering which will be great news for your bottom line.”
Coeliac UK offers training and advice to the industry to help them deliver food for people with coeliac disease. For more information, visit www.coeliac.org.uk/food-industry.
The national charity is encouraging chefs from across the UK to enter its Gluten-free Chef of the Year competition. click here for more details.