Being gluten free now for going on 3 years, it's been a constant learning process. Now, there are more gluten free products available at the store than ever before and an overall general awareness of gluten sensitivity in the restaurant industry. One of my favorite gluten free brands has been Udi's and I recently had the opportunity to learn more about them with a virtual meeting. In just a few years, Udi’s has become the #1 gluten-free brand in America. You can view Udi’s history here.
Denise Sirovatka, Vice President/General Manager for Udi's Gluten Free was the presenter of the meeting and I learned so much. I'm excited about the expansion of gluten free products they are offering and look forward to their continued growth!
For me, Udi's brings me a sense of hope. They understand the needs and wants of the gluten free community and have listened to consumers to provide products that appeal to us so we can also enjoy foods that we cannot otherwise eat. In my kitchen, Udi's is a common name and brand. It's important for me to be able to access Udi's products and where I shop is dependent on whether Udi products are available at the store. Here are some things I learned from the virtual meeting along with common questions posed and Udi's responses.
“Udi’s changed the way consumers think about gluten free. We made can’ts, cans. We removed the restrictions that made living gluten free a struggle and made the transition seamless. We created a community for folks to share, build and create. We brought joy. “
Understanding Gluten Free Eating:
• 78% think others don’t understand what a burden it is to be gluten free
• Only 10% are medically diagnosed
• 37% are self-diagnosing
• They have an avid thirst for knowledge and look to multiple sources for information including friends/family, search engines, websites and stores
• 72% would go without or to another grocery store if they could not find Udi’s
• 87% say that Udi’s made them feel normal again
• 74% rely on friends & family for information and recommendations
• 70% use search engines or web portals
• 67% use websites
• 49% engage with social media sites
• 56% make their purchase decisions in-store
• 25% rely on cooking shows for food/nutritional information
• 36% think events or organizations are important
• Gluten free defines their food choices, not who they are. They want to intersect with information in their everyday lives
The Udi’s Community:
• Over 250 Brand Ambassadors in North America
• +500 Celiac & Health Events
• +200,00 Consumer Connections
• Activate for in-store demos, celiac events, product testing & consumer research
What are the benefits of eating a gluten free diet?
Wheat in general is a natural inflammatory so when you eat a ton of wheat, you may feel a little bit bloated, so any reduction in wheat will help alleviate those symptoms. We find that with a lot of people are sticking with the brand or eating gluten free just because they feel better. But if you have celiac disease, your body doesn’t have the ability to process gluten and you can’t actually absorb the nutrients. So that actually has very long term effects! Udi’s is a real solution for those who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Will the benefits be seen if a family eliminates gluten products one at a time or do you have to completely go off of gluten to see the results?
If you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, then you absolutely have to go off of it all the way! That’s the only way your body is going to heal itself and stay healed. If you are choosing to eat gluten free for your own health reasons then that is up to the individual. Some people choose to start by adopting “Gluten Free Friday.”
Are there any tips for families who want to cut back on gluten but not go completely gluten free?
We make simple substitutions in my family. So when we have pizza nights, I started using gluten free pizza crust instead of a wheat-based crust. There are some great gluten free pastas out there, so you can substitute gluten free pasta on spaghetti night. A lot of the time, no one notices a difference!
Will going gluten free help my child who has the occasional stomach grumbles?
That may be up to the individual. Simply make those trade-outs for gluten free products and see how your child is feeling before deciding to stick with it. Make a simple substitution like using gluten free bread for their sandwiches.
Do you have suggestions for trying to accommodate everyone in the family, when not everyone is gluten intolerant?
We see all the time that it is so much easier when the whole household goes on a gluten free diet together, so that everyone feels they are part of the group. What we try to do on our website is create recipes that nobody in the house would know that they are gluten free and recipes that the whole family can come together and enjoy. See Udi’s gluten free recipes here.
We’ve been gluten free for two years and I still don’t know what is safe and what is not for both packaged foods and eating out. Do you have any recommendations?
There is a list on www.glutenfree.com with a nice infographic that shares a list of ingredients that are safe and ones that are not. Regarding eating out, it’s usually best to call the restaurant in advance to see what their status is regarding the gluten free items and how they deal with allergies in the kitchen to see what the chance of cross contamination might be.
Are there things we should look for (other than wheat or gluten) on an ingredients list?
Most of the hidden wheat ingredients will be lower on the list. It will be things like emulsifiers or wheat maltodextrin. Most of these things are in salad dressings or soups as a thickening agent. You want to look at ketchup to see if there is any wheat-based maltodextrin on the label.
How do you make the transition to a gluten free diet for a child?
If you really think that it is an intolerance or celiac disease, you need to cut wheat cold turkey! But do it in a way that you are still giving your child their favorites. If they love pizza, just use gluten free crust. You can have your child play an active role in trying out new options to make sure that they are great-tasting substitutes!
How has eating gluten free become a trend?
The way we eat is always evolving! Because we always are traveling and adapting to other types of eating, we as consumers continue to want more and more choices. Eating gluten free is the same; we are hearing more about how processed foods are unhealthy and now we just want another option for taking control of what they are eating and another option for eating healthier. It’s like eating vegetarian. Even non-vegetarians choose to be a vegetarian even if it’s only one day a week, just because it’s another healthy option.
Do you have any examples about how listening to your social media conversation online has impacted the products that you produce?
With almost every new product we produce, we first engage our audience online and learn what they want. We started to monitor conversation online and we saw a lot of talk about how people couldn’t find gluten free breads with more fiber in them. And this really prompted us to introduce the Omega Flax & Fiber bread.
Do you have plans to come out with a line of pastas?
I can’t say everything that is going on in our product development, but let’s say that we plan to be in every category that is out there!
Where can we find Udi’s products?
You can find us at national grocery stores. Sometimes it is in the bakery, sometimes it is in the frozen food section, depending on the product. Use our website store locator to find which grocery stores are carrying your products.
What new things are introduced to the Udi’s line?
We did just introduce a line of four frozen meals: a Classic Mac ’N’ Cheese with Penne Pasta, a Bacon Mac ‘N’ Cheese, a Sausage Lasagna and a Kale and Broccoli Lasagna! We really tried to make these taste homemade. For example, we used real cream and real ingredients so they would be tasty!
What is your best selling bread?
Our best sellers, by far, are two breads: the Whole Grain Bread and the White Sandwich Bread.
Are you in restaurants?
We have been working in the food service arena for the past two years. Our hamburger and hot dug buns are at stadiums, Red Robin and most other hamburger joints carry our hamburger buns and we are just starting to get traction with our pizza crust. We are really working hard to make sure that there are gluten free options for people in restaurants!
A special thank you to the folks at Udi's and The Motherhood for providing the opportunity to learn more about a brand I love and need. Udi's provided a sampling of their products for the participation of the virtual meeting but as I mentioned, I've been a loyal consumer of Udi's well before the meeting and will continue to support their efforts and products!