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Gluten-free takeout orders up 60% YoY, while 4% of US restaurants now offer gluten-free options, says GrubHub

By Elaine WATSON , 25-Jun-2013
Last updated on 25-Jun-2013 at 18:15 GMT

Picture: Cheffie’s Café, Memphis
Picture: Cheffie’s Café, Memphis

Gluten-free takeout orders have grown almost 60% since April 2012, according to digital food ordering service GrubHub.

An analysis of orders from GrubHub’s database of 20,000+ restaurants in more than 500 US cities also revealed that diners in the Pacific Northwest lead demand* for gluten-free, with Seattle, Portland and Eugene, Oregon, topping the list of cities with the highest percentage of gluten-free orders.

The next biggest gluten-free cities were San Jose, Chicago, Raleigh, Denver, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Albany.

More than 4% of GrubHub restaurants now offer gluten-free options, but in some cities, the percentage is up to 18%

More than 4% of GrubHub restaurants now offer gluten-free options, with pizzas, salads, burgers, wraps and sandwiches the most popular choices.

But which cities are ahead of the game when it comes to offering gluten-free menu items?

According to GrubHub, Detroit is the clear winner, with almost 18% of restaurants featuring a gluten-free item, followed by Stamford, CT (15%), Eugene, OR (12%), Albany, NY (11%), Phoenix, AZ (10%), Lansing, MI (9%), Denver, CO and Seattle, WA (8%), Ann Arbor, MI and Providence, RI (7%).

Meanwhile, the following cities have shown the highest growth in demand for gluten-free takeout, based on a year-over-year (April/May 2012 and April/May 2013) comparison of orders described as ‘gluten-free’.

Albany, San Francisco, Portland, Trenton, Washington, New Haven, Boston, Philadelphia, San Diego and Syracuse.

As for the most popular gluten-free dishes, the most-ordered items described as ‘gluten-free’ on menus are: Pizza, salad, burger, wrap, sandwich, Pad Thai, pasta, bread, cake and paninis.

Technomic: There has been an explosion of gluten-free items on menus at limited service restaurants  in the past two years

The data accords with recent research from Technomic, which claims there has also been an “explosion of gluten-free items” on menus at limited service restaurants (LSRs) in the past two years.

In its January 2013 ‘Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report’ , Technomic said: “Essentially non-existent as a health claim on mainstream menus just two years ago, there are now hundreds of LSR menu items described as gluten-free.”

Gluten-free items now positioned as simply better-for-you choices

GrubHub's database includes 20,000+ restaurants in more than 500 US cities

Strikingly, gluten-free is now regarded by many restaurant diners as a healthy option rather than an option purely for celiacs, and is positioned on menus accordingly, says Technomic.

Once promoted as a menu alternative to the small segment of the population that suffers from celiac disease, gluten-free items are now positioned as simply better-for-you choices that are generally perceived by consumers to be lighter fare.

And the growth in gluten-free offerings is happening at every level in the industry, it observes: “Next 250 and emerging chains are surpassing Top 250 chains in introducing gluten-free items, suggesting that this health claim has even more potential to gain traction on a wider scale over time.”

*Demand is based on GrubHub orders that include menu items described as "gluten-free," placed between 1/1/2013 and 5/28/2013.

Click here to read more about GrubHub.

Click here to read our interview with Boulders Brands CEO Steve Hughes (Udi's, Glutino).

Click here to read more stories on the gluten-free market.

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