In the romantic city of Heidelberg, Germany, my wife and I used to live above a bakery that would churn 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, creating the most welcoming of aromas whenever we’d walk through the front door. Hotel lobbies should be employing this masterful strategy more often to create a semblance of home. However, if hotel management is looking to remind us of Grandma’s baking at home, they would be wise to stimulate our olfactory pleasures with the aroma of gluten-free baked goods.
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 2016.¹
The implications for restaurants, hotels and experience specialists are enormous. Diners in American restaurants ordered over 200 million gluten-free dishes last year.¹ 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 amidst tourism service providers outside the 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 that were undoubtedly made with wheat, awareness of gluten was lacking across Europe.
Incorporating gluten-free offerings into your marketing mix will not only make your American customers happy, it should help boost your bottom line with little added cost or effort. Tourpreneurs in the scintillating country of Croatia on the Adriatic Sea have put together gluten-free options that not only fill a market gap, they are incredibly delicious even for those who are not anti-gluten.
In the coastal city of Split, our friend, Jaksa Bedalov, together with The Art of Wine, rose to our gluten-free challenge and developed an incredible cooking class that revolved around fresh Croatian ingredients devoid of the offending protein. The following video is a look at Jaksa’s Fresh Delights.
In the walled city of Dubrovnik, where the HBO series Game of Thrones is being filmed, a young couple of Tourpreneurs ignored the food critics and the pressure to create yet another pizza/seafood restaurant and instead 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.
Photos Courtesy of Tricia A. Mitchell.
¹”Against The Grain: Should You Go Gluten-Free.” The New Yorker. November 3, 2014.