Odds are if you aren't living "gluten-free," you know someone who is.
As little as five years ago if you told someone that you were living “gluten-free,” you were likely to get a puzzled expression.
Times have changed.
The products designed for those eliminating gluten has become a billion dollar business, and it's growing fast.
To give a sense of how strong the business is, in 2010, the market segment accounted for $2.6 billion in sales; a strong 30 percent gain for the period spanning 2006-2010. In 2015, revenues are expected to pass $6 billion.
In the world of gluten-free living, Triumph Dining is “like the ESPN of the celiac world,” said Triumph's owner, and Danville resident, Dave Morris.
Morris added the publisher -- currently the No. 1 gluten-free publisher in the country -- to his group of publishing companies came to Danville in early 2011. Part of Triumph's operations continue to be based in Burlingame, run by Morris' business partner and longtime close friend, Bob Stamatatos.
With Triumph Dining joining the local business scene, for many, Danville has effectively been put at the center of the booming celiac universe, says Morris.
Celiac disease is a genetic disorder that is estimated to affect 1 in 133 Americans. The disorder affects the digestive system and the body’s autoimmune response. Those with celiac can’t tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, barley and rye; their bodies’ reaction to gluten causes it to not properly absorb nutrients from foods.
Because gluten is a highly prevalent ingredient in a huge number of everyday products from food to personal care products, living a gluten-free lifestyle is very challenging.
Triumph Dining, originally established in Philadelphia in 2005, has led the way in helping people living gluten-free lifestyles live a “more normal life.” The company’s comprehensive and authoritative gluten-free restaurant and shopping guides are regarded as must-have resources for those living gluten-free.
Despite the challenges of the dietary regimen, in recent years, going gluten-free has gone much more mainstream.
Increasingly, it is not restricted to just people who have celiac disease anymore. Those with other conditions like diabetes, autoimmune diseases, or who struggle with obesity have increasingly sought the healthful benefits of eliminating gluten.
In fact, the market for people who are gluten-free by choice, rather than out of necessity, is now actually five times larger than for those with celiac disease, says Morris.
This has created a market that is increasingly commanding more grocery store shelf space and creating demand for support for those living the lifestyle.
Acquiring the company not only made good business sense to Morris, it also had a personal appeal for he and Stamatatos.
“A big piece of our job is to help people have a normal lifestyle,” said Morris, and that includes members of their own families.
They know the benefits and challenges of gluten-free living first hand. At the same time that Stamatatos’ child was diagnosed with celiac, Morris’ mother-in-law also developed the condition.
People new to the dietary regimen will tell you that going gluten-free takes some getting used to. Morris puts it more bluntly: “If you are on a restricted diet, it kind of sucks, because you really don’t know what you can have and what you can’t, and you pay the price about three hours later (if you have gluten).”
The partners are putting that first-hand understanding of the needs of their customers and building upon Triumph’s well-established restaurant and shopping guides business by adding cookbooks to the publisher’s catalog.
The first two books in a new cookbook series, The Essential Gluten-Free Baking Guide Part 1 and The Essential Gluten-Free Baking Guide Part 2, were just released, and take the mystery out of gluten-free baking. The cookbooks are available in paperback on Amazon.com and retail for $16.95 each. They are also available in e-book format for Kindle, iPhone/iPad, and Nook.
The guides aim to not only teach people to bake gluten-free, but to get results as good or better than the “original.”
That’s a tall order.
Traditionally prepared baked goods are especially hard for people to give up when they go gluten-free—especially the increasing numbers of children that now follow the diet. Matching textures and taste for picky palates—adult and child alike—is tricky.
It also has a social dimension.
Kids don’t want to be special because of their dietary needs, says Morris. “If you are a kid having a birthday party, you want chocolate chip cookies that are as good as the chocolate chip cookies at anybody else’s party," he said.
The guides address this challenge by teaching people of all skill levels how to use alternative flours, unrefined sugars, and other healthful ingredients to achieve a taste and texture comparable to the “real thing.” The books offer over 100 gluten, dairy, and soy-free recipes, as well as hundreds of tips for both new and experienced gluten-free bakers.
Morris says, the guides are authored by “two up and coming” authorities in the gluten-free world, Brittany Angell and Iris Higgins. The two women have become “experts in flours,” and the different results each type can produce, he says.
Morris is really impressed by what the co-authors produced in these first two guides, and says that pre-orders for the new cookbooks has been “the strongest they’ve ever had.”
In the future, Morris plans to continue to expand Triumph’s offerings, and serve other specialized dietary niches.
For more information about Triumph Dining, visit their website here.
Sign up for the Danville Patch daily newsletter and get all your local Danville and Alamo news delivered to your inbox first thing in the morning.