Celiac Foundation’s gluten-free expo: Waffles you want to eat, nutty bars and more


Fruit doesn’t have gluten; potato chips usually don’t either.

But at the Celiac Disease Foundation’s annual conference and product expo over the weekend, Frito-Lay and Dole had tables and offered samples. Remember when grapefruit was labeled as fat free? The idea is either clever marketing or consumer education, depending on the perspective.

Frito-Lay in 2012 began to test and certify products that had no gluten -- protein found in wheat, barley and rye and a substance that people with the autoimmune condition celiac disease must avoid. In addition, many people -- as many as one in three in this country -- say they feel better when they don’t eat it.

“Our consumers with celiac disease and gluten intolerances have told us it is helpful when they shop to see a gluten-free indication on product packaging,” Frito-Lay said in a flyer at the show, held at the Pasadena Convention Center.


As for Dole, it was sampling fruit cups, but announced five new soups, including black bean and corn, carrot ginger and tomato vegetable, that are gluten free. The company also has an eight-page list of its products that don’t have gluten.

There were some interesting new ideas at the show too -- new to me at any rate.

Nicole’s Naturals of Irvine launched just three weeks ago with a delicious pancake and waffle mix.

“I got tired of making two meals,” gluten-free for her and with gluten for her husband, Nicole Washington said, so she came up with a mix that everyone would be happy to eat. In fact, she said, her husband liked it so much he persuaded her to turn it into a commercial product.

Washington, an industrial engineer, said her son liked to host waffle parties, adding all sorts of fruit and other items to waffles. When he became a fan of her gluten-free waffles and took them to class, “that made me feel really good,” she said. Six cans are $49 at

Like so many gluten-free products, the Yes Bar also started in a family kitchen. Abigail Wald’s son had a lot of food allergies and could not eat gluten. “I was always saying no to everything,” she said.

After lots of sobbing and many trials, she said, she came up with a bar her son and his friends said yes to. It comes in macadamia chocolate chip and mocha cayenne (not too spicy) flavors. They’re full of nuts and seeds and sold in several dozen stores, including Erewon near the Grove in Los Angeles, for about $3 each.


Deb Wheaton said that when learned she had celiac disease nine years ago, “I’d be thrilled to have a cookie even if it was like a hockey puck. It’s a different world now.”

Her world is different too, as the president of Gluten-Free Prairie, a Montana company that sells oat groats, oatmeal and related products. The company grows a hull-less variety of oats that, in rolled form, look smaller than Quaker’s, and in groat form look like rice.

The groats, Wheaton said, can be cooked like steel cut oats or like rice and eaten for breakfast or dinner.

Color Garden’s gluten-free food colorings may appeal not just to people avoiding gluten but to those who don’t want to eat the chemicals found in many ordinary recipes.

“Consumers are searching for alternatives,” said Tamara Biedebach, the marketing and sales director for the Anaheim company. They’re $9.75 for a box of four colors.

It’s tough to re-create all the vibrant colors available for cookie and cake decorators. Yellow, dyed with turmeric, looks great, and so does pink. But red’s a challenge.

“The deeper colors are harder,” Biedebach said. “We are developing a Halloween collection, and it’s hard to make black.”

The company uses beets, carrots, annato, red cabbage and other plants to create its dyes.

Gretchen Bender gave up her career as a community college dean three years ago to become a candy maker. And so far, things are working out very well for Salty Sisters, a San Diego candy company that’s doesn’t use wheat syrups, making it gluten-free.

Salty Sisters makes toffees, caramels and sauces that it hopes will “reintroduce the public to fresh candy,” Bender said. She started selling the product at a farmers market in 2011. It’s available at two shops in San Diego and online. The toffee is $17 for a half-pound box.

Most of the ingredients were naturally free of gluten, including corn syrup. But many customers want their foods to be free of genetically modified ingredients, she said, so she began looking for an alternative because much of the corn in this country is grown with GMOs. They settled on brown rice syrup.

“We found our flavor profile went through the roof. It really added a depth of flavor,” Bender said.

Everybody’s seen Breton crackers on the cheese platter. Now the Canadian company Dare has produced gluten-free versions, made with arrowroot and lentils. They’re the familiar shape, come in original and herb and garlic flavors, and cost $2.99 a box.

Gluten free? Follow me on Twitter: @mmacvean