2009 is quickly coming to a close.  It was a busy gluten-free year for the celiac community.  Lots of developments happened that impacted many of us.  I am counting down the top 5 celiac or gluten-free related stories of 2009.  I covered numbers 3, 4, & 5 in my last post.  Now it’s time for the top two.

#2 Mayo Clinic Breakthrough Study

This was very significant news.  On July 1st, the Mayo Clinic released a study; the headline on the news release said, “Celiac Disease Four Times More Common than in the 1950s”.  Jawdropping for me, but it also turned the heads of many others who have nothing to do with celiac disease.

The study reported that a change in the environment appears to have made celiac more common than 50 years ago; that undiagnosed or “silent” celiac is associated with nearly quadrupled mortality and that officials may need to consider celiac testing for general population.

The news was covered either on the day of it’s release or in the days shortly after by national outlets like ABC News, MSNBC, Reuters, New York Times Well Blog, Fox News, Washington Post, celiac disease finally made it mainstream baby! But also bloggers around the world were talking about it, including on this site.

In preparation for this 2009 year-ender list, I chatted recently with Lee Aase, the Mayo Clinic’s Social Media Manager, about the release of the study and the reaction afterward.  He says the Mayo Clinic’s website and the YouTube posting in which Dr. Joseph Murray’s explains celiac disease received a lot of attention.  And what’s also interesting, Aase says, is that the coverage actually “went on for quite a while”.

“There was lots of media interest…lots of blog posts and use of the [Dr. Murray] video,” Aase said.  This study hit particularly close to home for Aase.  He was actually diagnosed with celiac disease last spring and his son was diagnosed just this month. “We should know what the health risks are…[Studies like this] help raise awareness for everyone,” Aase said.

The coverage began with Aase and the Mayo Clinic Tweeting about it, then followed up with the embargoed study to get the research into the hands of the celiac community and “spread [the news] that way.”  It worked!

Because of this study, it is quite likely millions more people have now heard about celiac or know more about it — and that’s something to be proud of!

Top Story of 2009!  General Mills’s Gluten-Free Bandwagon

In my view, General Mills did more for celiac disease and the gluten-free lifestyle than anyone else this year.

I believe the reformulation of nearly all of the Chex cereals and the advent of Betty Crocker’s gluten-free brownie, cake and cookie mixes played a huge role in the awareness of the gluten-free lifestyle.  Since both have come on the shelves I have had more people tell me that they saw the gluten-free mixes or they’ve tried the new gluten-free Chex.

Finally something that is advertised as gluten-free, from a well-respected, mainstream company, is in the aisles that EVERYONE goes down.  These products by General Mills (General Mills owns Betty Crocker), are right in the baking aisle and the cereal aisle, rather than be tucked in a corner in the health food section.  On a daily basis, shoppers are seeing that we exist!

But General Mills hasn’t stopped there, this fall the company posted a video explaining celiac disease and a gluten-free diet, plus they launched a new website that profiles their products and  cool gluten-free recipes.  Both of these were recently profiled on this site.  This website officially adds dozens of varieties of Yoplait, Lara Bars and Fruit Rollups to the company’s gluten-free list of products.

The General Mills gluten-free bandwagon appears to paying off.  Back in September we learned that its first quarter earnings soared.  Some of the credit goes to the gluten-free Chex cereals.  But also during an interview with Fox Business, Ken Powell, the CEO of General Mills, gave some love and credit to the new Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Mixes. He said the company has had “a very positive reception” to them.  We look forward to seeing how they do!

Bottom Line:  General Mills created its own (significant) niche in a  market in which mainstream companies are overlooking or altogether ignoring.  General Mills also proved that you can have successful products which taste good, benefit the community and makes money.  Not only that, but in the last seven months the company  has created a buzz that cannot be ignored.  The general public is aware that gluten-free food options are out there. And that helps everyone. Plus, no doubt– other big companies are watching and taking note. — That why this is the top story of 2009.

I am not sure what General Mills has in store for us in 2010, but if it benefits the gluten-free lifestyle as much as it helped in 2009, we should be in for a fun ride!

Here’s to 2010!

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3 Responses to “And the Top Celiac or Gluten-Free Story of 2009 is…”

  1. I have to agree that the biggest celiac story of 2009 is that General Mills jumped into the game. The gluten free industry surpassed $1Billion in the past year or so, so we knew the major players would jump in. General Mills did this perfectly with their awesome website.
    The small local bakeries will take a hit from this since there are now more readily available gluten free options at the major stores. Although, some of the small local bakeries do make some great, fresh products that I will still buy.
    I can’t wait to see what GenMills has in store for the future and see how the other major manufacturers will try and top them! Things are only getting better for us!

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