CHICAGO – Nearly one in three adults claimed to reduce or avoid gluten completely in January, according to new research from NPD Group, a leading global information company.

Interest in gluten-free diets is spilling over into foodservice, NPD said. With 30 percent of adults saying they want to cut down or avoid gluten, foodservice operators should not ignore this trend, analysts say.

“It’s not that we want health and wellness more but that we are constantly changing how we address health and wellness, said Harry Balzer, chief industry analysts and author of Eating Patterns in America. “A generation ago health was about avoiding fat, cholesterol, sugar, and sodium in our diet. While those desires still exist for many, they no longer are growing concerns. Today, increasingly more of us want to avoid gluten in our diet and right now it is nearly 30 percent of the adult population… and it’s growing. This is the health issue of the day.”

As part of its foodservice market research, NPD asked consumers if they ordered something off a menu that was listed as high protein, whole grain, sugar-free, or described in another way. NPD's Crest foodservice research showed that the incidence of consumers ordering food described on the menu as gluten-free or wheat-free has more than doubled compared to four years ago — accounting for more than 200 million restaurant visits in the past year.

“The number of US adults who say they are cutting down on or avoiding gluten is too large for restaurant operators to ignore,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “Restaurant operators and marketers can find opportunities to address consumer needs when it comes to their growing interest in cutting down on or avoiding gluten, like training staff to accurately answer customer questions, using symbols on menus and menu boards to highlight items that are gluten-free, as a way to extend consumer awareness and confidence in ordering.”