Cover Photo: Freshly Baked Bread | © Tricia A. Mitchell
In the romantic German city of Heidelberg, my wife, Tricia, and I lived above a bakery churning out fresh delights around the clock. The tantalizing aromas of piping-hot German dark breads, twisty pretzels, and sweet treats would swirl up through our hard-wood floorboards.
These olfactory delights would greet us and guests whenever we’d walk through the front door of our home.
Today, Tricia is unable to eat everyday bread due to a gluten sensitivity. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.
Considering how common these flours are in everyday foods, it is awe-inspiring that over 1/3 of American adults are currently trying to eliminate gluten from their diets. Whether they are genuinely sensitive to this type of protein or they are simply trying to lose weight, America’s gluten obsession will translate into the sale of gluten-free products worth $15 billion dollars in 2016.
The implications for restaurants, hotels, and experience specialists are enormous. Diners in American restaurants ordered over 200 million gluten-free dishes last year.
With a strong US dollar encouraging a surge in outbound tourism and almost 7 million monthly searches on Google using the term “gluten,” destinations that cater to gluten-free American travelers stand to gain an edge over their competitors.
Despite the surge in demand for gluten-free products, awareness of gluten seems to be lacking outside of English-speaking countries.
While traveling with my wife around Europe over the past 2 years, questions regarding the presence of gluten in food products were often met with blank stares. From being hidden in spices and chocolate, to incredible-looking pastries, awareness of gluten was lacking across Europe.
Incorporating gluten-free offerings into your marketing mix will make American customers happy and boost your bottom line. Tourism entrepreneurs in Croatia recently recognized this marketing opportunity.
Check out my video of this experience:
In the walled city of Dubrovnik, where the HBO series Game of Thrones is being filmed, a young couple of tourism entrepreneurs ignored the food critics and opened a successful niche restaurant focused on vegetarian and gluten-free options called Nishta. They were so successful that they even opened a second restaurant in Croatia’s capital of Zagreb.
To learn more about how easy it is to incorporate gluten-free options into your recipes, visit the Celiac Disease Foundation’s website. Also, if you have packaged foods that you would like to have certified as ‘gluten-free’, check out the Association of European Coeliac Societies. With luck and some good marketing, your efforts to cater to the gluten-free traveller should drive greater profits to your business this travel season.
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Photos Courtesy of Tricia A. Mitchell.
¹”Against The Grain: Should You Go Gluten-Free?” The New Yorker. November 3, 2014.