Skip to main content

Q&A with Canada’s gluten-free guru

Kathy Smart, an expert in Canada on the matter shares her insights on what's next in gluten free

Canadian Grocer caught up with Kathy Smart, founder of Live the Smart Way and spokesperson for the Canadian gluten-free expo, to find out what’s on the horizon for gluten-free products. Canada's gluten free market reached $459 million in 2012, according to Packaged Facts.

We’re seeing gluten-free popping up on products of all kinds these days, from chocolate bars to condiments. Why now?

Kathy Smart: The public and doctors are much more aware of the more than 100 potential symptoms associated with celiac. But what’s really creating the buzz is gluten sensitivity. Many people are going gluten free for 30 days to see how they feel – they’re overweight, they’re tired – and they like how they feel without gluten.

Does gluten-free have staying power, like nut-free products – or is it just a passing fad?

Gluten-free products grew 17 per cent in 2012. Gluten-free is more than just a trend because health conditions aren’t a trend. If someone decides to go fat-free, they’re making a choice. But if someone has a health condition where they can’t tolerate gluten, it’s not a choice.

What do grocers need to know about gluten-free products?

There are a lot of processed products hitting the shelves that hit the bottom line – they’re cheap products, but a lot of these foods are made with white rice flour and tapioca starch, which are high glycemic. People with health issues may buy some of these products once or twice, but once they realize how it makes them feel, they’ll never touch that product again.

How should grocers be merchandising gluten-free products?

Gluten-free products should definitely be separated from gluten products, just for cross-contamination reasons. It also makes it easier for the consumer, having a section dedicated to gluten- free. For gluten-free products that are mixed in with regular merchandise, putting colour-coded stickers on the shelves to help shoppers identify them can be helpful.

You recently released your own product, a gluten-free instant breakfast cereal. What kind of other innovations can we expect to see in gluten-free?

Definitely products that are both gluten and dairy-free. Also, we’re going to see a rise in kid-friendly gluten-free products with a big push for snacks. It’s really challenging to create a healthy, gluten-free, shelf-stable snack – especially one that appeals to kids. Kids are more demanding than adults – if it doesn’t taste good, they won’t eat it. And if the packaging doesn’t look good, they’re not going to touch the product. VH just announced that its sauces will be gluten-free, which I was just thrilled about. I think we’re going to see this move from more companies that make sauces and spice mixtures.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds