This winter, gluten-free awareness in the restaurant community was feeling downright progressive!  So many businesses and restaurants opened their eyes and took chances on gluten-free products.  For celiacs, it was like the clouds parted and angels started singing from the heavens!  But a little of that excitement has been brought down a few notches in the last week.

Starbucks Cake Axed

When Starbucks made its announcement that it wanted to develop a gluten-free product, there was a definite feeling of gluten-free acceptance among our celiac community.  If Starbucks was publicly announcing its gluten-free product support — others would surely follow.  The groundswell of support had celiacs across the country chiming in, voicing their gratitude and opinions on the tasty treats they would like to see when getting a coffee.

The company then spent a lot of time and money creating the Valencia Orange Cake.  This one cake was defining the taste of gluten-free, we all had high hopes.  May 5th came around, the cake was launched to a very welcoming and excited audience.  Twitter was all a-twitter with celiacs asking each other if they’d tried the cake yet.  Fast forward to last week, word came out that Starbucks had discontinued the Valencia Orange Cake.  A Starbucks’ Tweet revealed the apparent explanation, “We heard that it was too much of a treat, and not a nutritious snack. The [Kind Snacks] bar is replacing it.”  Ugh…like a shot to the heart.

Late last week Triumph Dining started a petition to get Starbucks to keep the cake, but who knows if that will have an impact.  In the meantime, go enjoy a last piece of the cake for FREE by printing this Starbucks coupon.  There’s a special free offer on pastries for this morning, July 21st– yes, specifically listing the orange cake as one of the qualifying pastries.  I guess that’s one way to get rid of it.

Michello’s in Blaine Closes

Back in February, Michello’s here in Blaine, Minnesota was putting the finishing touches on its gluten-free menu…trying to make everything just right.  The company had a separate oven for gluten-free pizzas, they made their own gluten-free crusts and baked their own gluten-free bread.  It was the most progressive I’ve ever seen a restaurant be when it comes to gluten-free food.

I thought their gluten-free pizza was better than their original pizza.  I even recommended FOX 9 talk to them when they did the story on the Mayo Clinic celiac study on July 1st.   You can still watch the restaurant in action on the web, but not in real life.  The entire restaurant abruptly closed down.  Monday morning I saw a little note on their website explaining how the economic conditions forced the closure.

Gluten-Free “Progress”?

Why does this happen?  Is it because of the tough economic times we’re in?  Or is it worse — are we not enough of a market to keep the good stuff afloat?  I worry about the latter more than the former.  The economy ebbs and flows.  But I really worry that if some of these companies can’t make a productive “go” of their gluten-free products or menus, other places won’t try and either scrap any gluten-free plans they had or get rid of products and menus all together claiming cost-effectiveness.  Then we’ll be several steps backwards.

I need to hear of some positive stories — companies who are doing well with new gluten-free endeavors despite the economy.  I want to to hear from people who believe that getting into the gluten-free market was one of the best decisions they made.  I feel so discouraged, although I don’t want to be.  Is anyone else feeling this way?

I don’t have any fantastic conclusion to this rant of mine, other than I am holding onto a hope that things will turnaround.  But I also want companies to know this: don’t give up on our market.  We are large in number, we’re educated and we’re loyal.  We need this food.  Please don’t let the economy or the losses of products like Starbucks cake convince you to stay away from the gluten-free marketplace.  We need to continue with progress!

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3 Responses to “The Rant — Needed: Gluten-Free Business Success Stories!”

  1. The Starbucks cake was yummy, more like a sugar bar than a cake, very small and it was also high in fat and very sticky–hard to eat on the go, but it had very good flavor. I am not too sad to see it go, but the Kind bars won’t help anyone allergic to nuts and gluten.

    I think a lot of restaurants are realizing that GF dining is just “fuss free”. We don’t expect to have all the sauces and fancy gels swirled on our plates (though those are nice).

    I have called a few restaurants after my dining experience and commended them on their options and suggested a sweet potato as a side. All of them have panicked and said, “can’t you have a baked potato?” To which I get to explain that, yes I can have a baked pot., but how boring is it to have a baked pot. at every meal when i’m on the road traveling. One restaurant had an awesome baked chicken, paired with a baked potatoe and when I explained that while it was good, it was not eye appealing the owner understood.

    I’d like to know to what extent do people raise the GF awareness with the waitress? We went out the other night, I had the GF menu, a regular menu that was highlighted and marked up with the GF changes/additions/deletions. The waitress pointed somethings out on the menu, I requested my meal “___ gf” and then I got it with a sauce, not gluten free. I’ve gone other places and spoken with the manager and wait person and it seems to be overkill [though we tip well!]

  2. Great post! I am also curious to see how many businesses are finding success in the GF market. Of course, all of us live in that market everyday, so it is very easy to see how big the potential is – I think that because Celiac/gluten intolerance is still relatively misunderstood/unknown, companies (especially large ones) don’t see the value yet in pandering to us. While I was happy to see that Starbuck’s was offering a treat (though I never tried it, can’t do eggs), I wonder how many they actually sold. My guess is they weren’t selling many. I think it’s a crock that they claimed it wasn’t nutritious enough (“Hi, can I have a nutritious cake? Oh yes, I’d also like an 800 calorie “coffee” to wash it down!”)

    I am becoming increasingly annoyed at products that claim to be GF and come to find out they aren’t, or going to a restaurant and having such a difficult time explaining what I can’t have that I just don’t feel comfortable ordering anything (currently I’m not eating out at all). The unfortunate fact is that until more and more companies offer GF products, costs will continue to be incredibly high and I just don’t see any glimmers of hope anytime soon. I still wonder why there isn’t a GF restuarant chain…do you think there is the market to support something like that? I think there is. All it’s going to take is one. Hhhmmm…a gluten-free “fast food” place that also offers other food allergy items…that would be great…

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