Not just rice cakes any longer for those who eat gluten-free


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Wandering around the Natural Products Expo West this weekend in Anaheim was a little like walking through a supersize Whole Foods market where everything was available for sampling. That is to say, it was crowded and overwhelming.

Among the trends was one that’s good news for people who avoid gluten. There was a time when such people mostly turned to rice cakes. No longer. Manufacturers are using a variety of grains –- flax, millet and quinoa among them –- to make products without gluten.


The exposition had more than 3,500 exhibits of food, healthcare products and other items at the Anaheim Convention Center over three days last week. Among the gluten-free choices were Van’s gluten-free frozen waffles; Glutino bread; Kinnikinnick Foods baking mixes; and Mina’s all-purpose mix in plain and chocolate. There were also breads, burritos, cereals, crackers and other products without gluten.

The company Jovial was sampling a not-too-sweet fig-filled gluten-free cookie, shown above with the cream-filled version too. The company also makes a pasta from brown rice and one from rice, potatoes and soy. Americans prefer the rice-only version, company representative Kelly Wood said.

Heather Collins has celiac disease and so avoids gluten. She said much of her life she felt bloated after eating and couldn’t figure out why. She tried avoiding meat, but her cardiologist father told her he didn’t think that meat was the problem.

Eventually, she hit on gluten intolerance, and subsequently became the communications and marketing manager for Udi’s Gluten Free Foods in Denver. Her company was giving out samples of its new hot dog and hamburger buns that have tapioca, brown rice and potato flour among their ingredients.

Collins said one reason there are so many new gluten-free products is that “people were fed up” with products that tasted more like cardboard than baked goods.

-- Mary MacVean

Photo: Gluten-free cookies; credit: Clay McLachlan / Jovial Foods