Gluten is a mixture of proteins found in foods that have wheat, oats, barley, rye or any of their derivatives. It helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together.
However, the pesky proteins have been banished from a lot of diets – for lifestyle choices or health concerns.
For a product to qualify as gluten free, it must not contain no more than three gluten parts per million.
The boom is so intense for gluten free foods that New Zealand’s largest privately owned testing lab, Hill Laboratories, has rolled out a gluten testing service with the fastest turnaround-time in the country.
Lab technologist Sam Marengo says more and more consumers are avoiding the ingredient due to an intolerance or dietary preference.
“As a result of more Kiwis going gluten free, manufacturers and retailers across the country are feeling the pressure to respond with gluten free products,” she says.
“Supermarkets now dedicate whole aisles to gluten free products and more cafes and restaurants offer gluten free food.”
One of these stores adapting to changing consumer tastes is Farro Fresh.
Co-founder Janene Draper says the company has seen both an increase in the demand for gluten free products and an increasing variety of products available.
“In each of our stores we have a dedicated gluten free section which includes flours, cereal and pasta to name a few,” Draper says.
“Our suppliers are striving to produce delicious gluten free alternatives and there is a great range of tasty options on the market.”
She says a new supplier Farro Fresh has brought on, Made That Way, makes such delicious gluten free treats, you wouldn’t know they were gluten free.
“It is great for people who suffer from gluten intolerance to have a number of options on the market.”
Countdown supermarkets has even gone to the extent of creating its own range of products that are free from gluten.
A quick Google shows that several shops, like the Gluten free Grocer, have also popped up specialising in catering to this demand.
Owner Kim Horsnell says she got on board with the company after witnessing the pain and frustration of family members who had intolerances and allergies.
There’s even such thing as gluten free gift boxes available from Gluten Free Living.
The trend is also taking off in the US, where about a third of American adults are trying to cut gluten out.
Retail sales of gluten free products in the US from 2011 to 2016 (in millions)
But the trend hasn’t been without its critics.
People choosing to eat gluten free is both a blessing and a curse to those with coeliac disease.
There are now more gluten free products than ever available for their picking, but some are miffed that those choosing to cut gluten out detract from the seriousness of their health condition.
“The biggest problem I experience is that restaurant servers don’t understand the difference between being coeliac and going gluten free as a lifestyle choice,” coeliac sufferer Kristen Deschamps told NPR.
“You can see the reaction where they think I’m just trying to lose weight or on a fad diet. I see eye-rolling.”
Bangerrito’s sign spotted at the Laneway festival earlier this year.
Much to the disappointment of people like Deschamps, judging by the numbers increasing year-by-year, the gluten free trend is here to stay.