Nevertheless, retail isn't the only place where gluten-free products are thriving. There is a noticeable parallel between a tendency to purchase gluten-free products when grocery shopping and the tendency to seek out these products when dining out. Approximately 15% of U.S. consumers who purchased gluten-free foods in the past three months have also chosen a gluten-free menu item at a quick-service, fast-food, or takeout restaurant in the past six months, according to Packaged Facts' proprietary consumer online survey. Roughly 20% have ordered a gluten-free option while dining at a sit-down restaurant.
Consumers most likely to choose gluten-free menu items in either type of establishment are between the ages of 18 and 34 and have children in the home. At fast-food restaurants, race (Asian, Black) and region of residence (West, Midwest) are also predictive factors. Northeasterners are exceptionally inclined to order a gluten-free item from the menu at a sit-down restaurant.
Some 15% of restaurants serve gluten-free fare, a penetration rate that jumped seven-fold between 2010 and 2014. Gluten-free ranks second of the healthy menu terms analyzed by Packaged Facts, well ahead of other, more "traditional" "free-from" attributes (fat, sugar, calories, carbs, cholesterol).
The gluten-free trend continues to gain traction on full-service restaurant menus, with many casual dining players are implementing dedicated gluten-free menus, while family/midscale operators are opting to integrate a few gluten-free items into their core menus. This suggests that it's essential for operators to jump on the gluten-free bandwagon to be perceived as fresh and current, noted David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts.