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Serving today's gluten-free customerServing today's gluten-free customer

California retailer Bridget Reilly shares how she goes the extra mile to serve special-diets customers and where she sees room for the category to grow.

Radha Marcum

April 2, 2014

4 Min Read
Serving today's gluten-free customer

Expo East appearance:
Special diets: Gluten free
Friday, September 19
12:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Room 320
Baltimore Convention Center

How do you merchandise gluten-free products in your store and how has this changed over time?

Bridget Reilly: Everything is gluten free and dairy free. I’m allergic to soy. I have a red dot in front of the product if it has soy in it. I also mark things with a green dot if they are certified vegan. I have things like beans that are vegan, but not certified so I don’t put a dot in front of those items. The vegan marking makes it easier for vegans and people that have egg allergies. We can say, “Look for stuff with the green dot.”

How do you merchandise other special diet products (raw, paleo, free from, etc.)?

BR: I have a local lady that has baked goods that are paleo friendly. Those sell well because they’re grain free. I have a lot of people coming in and buying the Raw Revolution bars and baked goods and asking more and more for it because I think people are really responding well to that diet. Paleo doesn’t have sugar in it. People are responding to going sugar free, and not necessarily replacing it with sugar-free. They’ll use something like coconut nectar instead.

It seems that people often have other allergies in addition to being gluten free.

BR: I have to bite my tongue sometimes when they say, “I’m just gluten free, but I’m still having problems with this … ” I will think to myself, “Oh that sounds like dairy.” But who am I to tell someone? I can tell them that going dairy free really helped me with my sinuses and immune system, but I can only say it from a personal perspective, I’m not a doctor. But I can also help them take a look at what they’re eating. They might be putting gluten in their diet without knowing it’s there. Vitamins and supplements are a common place to find gluten. Those are things you don’t think about it. Or licorice. That gets a lot of people.

How have you capitalized on the growing interest in gluten free, and what have you learned from gluten free that could be applied to other special diet categories?

BR: [I capitalized by] opening the store. Gluten free has opened my eyes to other diets and allergies. I started my own baked goods line in April. So I have people coming in and saying, “Can you make something paleo, or egg free?” I have to think outside of the box and try new recipes, and do research, because I want things to taste good, too.

What special diet products are your shoppers asking for (are more asking for paleo or raw, different types of gluten free, etc.)?

BR: Sugar free and the Paleo Diet are big.

Are there special diet products you’ve been looking to add to your store(s) but have not yet been able to find?

BR: I wish I could find a great gluten-free, dairy-free ravioli. There are some out there with sweet potato that don’t taste good. I’m working on getting more prepackaged foods back into my store. I had a chef that would do sandwiches and pasta salads. Everyday someone is asking if we have prepared meals—everyday multiple times especially with the students. I have a lot of baked goods, but I don’t have prepared meals.

Beyond gluten free, what do you think will be the next big special diet category and why?

BR: I think people come in and they say, “Oh, I’m just gluten-free, but I still have these other problems.” So we explore soy, dairy and corn. There’s usually more than one and they need to figure out what it is. I think people are going to have multiple allergies. Night shades—eggplant, tomato, mushrooms—and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli and cauliflower) and potatoes are big. Night shades definitely seem to be on an uptick. More people are going to the holistic doctors. Then people come into the store and they go gluten free, which is awesome, but then they overload their system with oats and corn and then they start having a reaction to oats and corn.


About the Author(s)

Radha Marcum

Editor in Chief, Delicious Living

Editor in chief of consumer publications including Delicious Living magazine, the premier in-store consumer publication serving the natural products industry. Radha writes about health, wellness, organic and sustainable living, and the natural lifestyle.

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