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This morning I had a great conversation with Vic Rose, Founder of G-Free Di Tobia who has generously donated the ingredients for gluten-free focaccia roll production line at Process Expo next month. This line will feature daily demonstrations of the production of this popular product, starting from the mixing of ingredients and running all the way through to an inspected packaged product ready for the grocer’s shelf. Given the tremendous popularity of gluten-free and the challenges of working with it in production, I thought I would interview Vic to get a better understanding of this and what we’ll be seeing at the show.

Vic started his career 9 years ago with his venture, Cuisine U, a mobile culinary class that traveled the country providing high-level food and beverage classes taught by leading experts in categories such as, Charcuterie, Sous Vide, Coffee Roasting, Master Bread/Pizza classes, Fermentation and more. Chefs such as David Burke, Eric Ripert, Michael White, Morimoto, and other nationally known chefs sent their chefs to Cuisine U classes. These classes were developed to expand awareness of different cuisines and cooking methods. Cuisine U classes were held at restaurants, prominent foodservice companies, and even some traditional culinary schools. It was in this role that Vic became an early adopter of gluten-free cuisine as he realized the demand that existed for these products and the need to develop a superior product. Cuisine U specialty food classes are still available upon request.

Fast forward to today, Vic is all in on the gluten-free evolution and sees tremendous potential for this segment. Vic stated that Gluten-Free products have gone beyond just bread, pizza, and cookies, and now include products in the prepared food categories with products like empanadas, pasta, quiches, and other items that previously did not have gluten-free options. Vic informed me that, similar to the traditional food industry, much of the innovation is happening on the small entrepreneurial level, which has trouble getting on to store shelves, despite offering a much better quality product than most national brands. These products will make it to the market eventually. But it takes time.

Another challenge gluten-free providers face, also similar to other food manufacturers, is the labor shortage that has been exacerbated by COVID-19 and contract manufacturers with limited capacity for gluten-free lines. While companies continue to get their products out the door to satisfy this segment, it remains a challenge and probably will for some time.

And yet, gluten-free is still a great market. Gluten-free is no longer a fad but a trend. While maybe not growing at the super-hot levels of 3-4 years ago, a 7.2% annual growth rate is projected through 2027. If you ask Vic, he’s bullish on this market segment. Vic believes that gluten-free is ready for Gluten Free 2.0. By Gluten-Free 2.0 Vic is referring to new ingredients soon to hit the market and new ways to process gluten-free products to achieve the texture and flavor of those products that contain gluten.

Readers interested in seeing G-free Di Tobia ingredients in action should register today to attend Process Expo, November 2-5, at Chicago’s McCormick Place. Demonstrations of the gluten-free focaccia roll production line will take place daily throughout the show and are included in the show floor registration.

Andy Drennan, FPSA, SVP