Fast-food chains dip toes in gluten-free

by Jeff Gelski
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BOULDER, Colo. – Gluten-free products at such large fast-food chains as McDonald’s and Burger King might be a couple years out, but retail outlets right now have the opportunity to create gluten-free sections, said Steve Hughes, chairman and chief executive officer of Boulder Brands, Inc., Boulder.

He spoke Aug. 1 in an earnings conference call for the second quarter, which saw sales increases for the company’s gluten-free brands Udi’s (45 percent) and Glutino (36 percent).

“In North America we are engaged with one of the largest coffee chains who’s looking at a muffin, bagel, brownie,” Hughes said. “We’ve got one of the largest donut chains engaging us on bagels and muffins. We’re getting good placement in, what I would call, the regional specialty burger chains, Smashburger, Red Robin, TGI Friday’s.

“We’ve had hot and cold conversations with the big ones, Burger King and McDonald’s. It could be 24 months for them.”

Retail research shows the gluten-free consumer wants a destination section at such outlets as supermarkets, he said.

“One, they don’t really trust having a gluten-free product next to a gluten-full product because these packages are not hermetically sealed,” Hughes said. “Two, they just don’t want to go on a treasure hunt. I mean, you think about the mom who’s got one gluten-sensitive child. She’s shopping through the whole store. She wants to be able to go one place to just buy the five or six products she needs.”
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