According to Chris Rich, VP of development at Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), the advert is a reminder that “we have a long way to go in educating consumers, businesses and the general public as to why being gluten-free is important and necessary for millions of individuals worldwide.
“While the number of product choices, quality of items and overall understanding of gluten-free needs have increased over the last decade... the public needs to gain a better understanding that being gluten-free is a medical necessity for some and a lifestyle choice for others, just like being vegetarian or eating organic.”
Marilyn Geller, CEO of Celiac Disease Foundation, added: “For the millions of Americans who suffer from celiac disease or non-celiac gluten/wheat sensitivity, strict adherence to a gluten-free diet is not ‘gross’ or funny – it can be a matter of life or death. Unfortunately, because in part of the widespread ignorance about celiac disease, millions remain undiagnosed.”
The ad to promote Party City's "Infladium" - an inflatable cooler designed to look like a football stadium - drew immediate outrage from the public on social media, with messages like “My son has celiac disease and this ad made me furious” and “You have no idea how hard it is to keep your kid living healthy with a life-threatening autoimmune disease" appearing on Facebook.
The company has issued an apology, saying it “made an error in judgement.
“We have removed the commercial from our website and all other channels and sincerely apologize for any offense this may have caused. We will also be reviewing our internal vetting process on all advertising content to avoid any future issues.”
In its statement, the company noted it will be making a donation in support of celiac disease research.
The Celiac Disease Foundation told BakeryandSnacks it is one of the organizations to receive a donation from Party City. It did not disclose the amount.